What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss, or deafness, can be present at birth (congenital), or become evident later in life (acquired). The distinction between acquired and congenital deafness specifies only the time that the deafness appears. It does not specify whether the cause of the deafness is genetic (inherited).
Acquired deafness may or may not be genetic. For example, it may be a manifestation of a delayed-onset form of genetic deafness. Alternatively, acquired deafness may be due to damage to the ear due to noise or from other conditions.
Congenital deafness may or may not be genetic. In non-genetic causes, congenital deafness may be due to a condition or infection to which the mother was exposed during pregnancy, such as the rubella virus. Alternatively, congenital hearing loss may be associated with certain other characteristic findings. For example, a white forelock may be a sign of a genetic disease called Waardenburg syndrome that includes congenital deafness in the spectrum of disease. Overall, more than half of congenital hearing loss is inherited.
What are the types of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can also be classified based on which portions of the hearing system (auditory system) are affected. When the nervous system is affected, it is referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. When the portions of the ear that are responsible for transmitting the sound to the nerves are affected, it is referred to as conductive hearing loss.
Conditions affecting the cochlea, eighth cranial nerve, spinal cord, or brain cause sensorineural hearing loss, such as:
- Meniere's disease
- Noise-induced hearing loss (such as prolonged or excessive exposure to loud music or machinery)
- Hearing loss of aging (presbycusis)
- Nerve injury from syphilis
- Hearing loss of unknown cause (idiopathic hearing loss)
- Nerve tumors
- Drug toxicity (such as aspirin and aminoglycosides)
Conditions that affect the ear canal, eardrum (tympanic membrane), and middle ear lead to conductive hearing loss. Examples of conductive hearing loss include:
What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss?
Symptoms of hearing loss include mild loss of high-frequency hearing, hearing loss associated with ringing or noises (tinnitus), and complete deafness. Symptoms may develop gradually over time with many causes of hearing loss.
People who are experiencing hearing loss may refrain from taking part in conversations, may turn the volume up high on the radio or TV, and may frequently ask others to repeat what they have said.
What is the treatment for hearing loss?
The treatment of hearing loss depends on its cause, such as:
- Ear wax can be removed
- Ear infections can be treated with medications
- Diseases that cause inflammation of the ear can be treated with medication
- Medications that are toxic to the ear can be avoided
- Occasionally surgical procedures are necessary
Shah, Rahul. "Hearing Impairment." Medscape.com. Sept. 24, 2019. <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/994159-overview>.
Top Deafness Related Articles
Detecting Hearing Loss in ChildrenThere are many degrees of hearing, from normal hearing to deafness. Many states mandate the testing of newborns before leaving the hospital. The risk factors for hearing loss in children include
- a family history of hearing loss,
- frequent ear infections,
- diagnosis of a learning disability,
- syndromes associated with hearing loss,
- speech delay, and
- infectious diseases that cause hearing loss.
- the child not responding to his or her name,
- the child asking for words to be repeated, and
- the child not paying attention to what is being said.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)A middle ear infection (otitis media) can cause earache, temporary hearing loss, and pus drainage from the ear. It is most common in babies, toddlers, and young children. Learn about causes and treatment.
Ear TubesWhen a child has repeated middle ear infections or fluid build-up in the ears, which causes problems with speech or hearing, surgery to place tubes inside the ear is often recommended. The surgery is called myringotomy. Preparing your child for this procedure will help comfort them, and knowing what to expect before, during, and after surgery is important as well.
Genetic DiseasesThe definition of a genetic disease is a disorder or condition caused by abnormalities in a person's genome. Some types of genetic inheritance include single inheritance, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, and hemochromatosis. Other types of genetic diseases include multifactorial inheritance. Still other types of genetic diseases include chromosome abnormalities (for example, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome), and mitochondrial inheritance (for example, epilepsy and dementia).
Hearing Loss: Causes of Hearing LossProblems with your ears like ear infections can cause signs of hearing loss. This may be sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. Learn how loud noises can induce hearing loss, the signs of hearing loss, and different ways you can prevent hearing problems.
Hearing Losss QuizCan hearing loss be reversed? Take this quiz to find out!
How Do You Clear Blocked Eustachian Tubes?Learn what medical treatments can help ease your blocked eustachian tube symptoms and speed up your recovery for blocked eustachian tubes. Ear infections are common and usually go away on their own after a few days, even without medical treatment. Learn about causes and treatment.
Inner Ear Infection (Labyrinthitis)Labyrinthitis occurs when there is inflammation of the part of the ear responsible for balance and hearing), usually due to viral infections of the inner ear. Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Newborn Infant Hearing ScreeningA newborn infant hearing screening is performed before a child is discharged from the hospital. If an infant doesn't pass the test, a rescreen is performed. Detecting hearing loss at an early age increases a child's chance of having a healthy and more productive life. There are two methods of testing hearing in infants: auditory brainstem response (ABR) and otoacoustic emission (OAE). Both tests are accurate, automated, and don't require a visible response from the infant.
STDs in MenSymptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in men include painful urination, bumps or sores on the penis, and penile discharge and itching. Learn about the most common STDs in men.
Pregnancy: 7 Common Third Trimester TestsTesting is often recommended during the third trimester of pregnancy. These tests are designed to ensure the health and safety of both the child and mother. Common tests during the third trimester of a woman's pregnancy include:
- group B streptococcus screening,
- electronic fetal heart monitoring,
- nonstress test,
- contraction stress test, and
- a biophysical profile.
What Can Trigger Vertigo?Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or rocking, even when someone is at rest. Vertigo may be caused by a problem in the brain or spinal cord or a problem within in the inner ear. Head injuries, certain medications, and female gender are associated with a higher risk of vertigo. Medical history, a physical exam, and sometimes an MRI or CT scan are required to diagnose vertigo. The treatment of vertigo may include medication, special exercises to reposition loose crystals in the inner ear, or exercises designed to help the patient re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Controlling risk factors for stroke (blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood glucose) may decrease the risk of developing vertigo.