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Hearing Loss

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Updated December 24, 2010

Hearing Loss

Cochlear Implant

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Treating Hearing Loss

Treatment of conductive hearing loss involves finding the root of the problem. For example, if there is a foreign body or excessive wax in the ear, it needs to be removed by a professional. Fluid in the ear can be treated with medication or sometimes drained. If any bones in the ear are fractured, they can often be surgically repaired.

There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss though many promising studies are being done. Hearing aids are beneficial in the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids use a microphone, amplifier and speaker to enhance sound and are most helpful for people who have decreased hearing, not those who are deaf. There are many different styles of hearing aids including aids worn behind the ear, in the ear, and in the ear canal. Hearing aids also come in digital and analog. However, only a small percentage of the population who could benefit from hearing aids actually uses them. Many people are afraid of how hearing aids will make them look and the stigma associated with these devices.

People who are deaf or have severe hearing loss can sometimes be treated with a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that goes behind the ear (the external portion) and then has another part that is surgically implanted beneath the skin (the internal part). Cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing and are controversial among the deaf community. The device bypasses damaged parts of the ear and works directly to stimulate the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve sends a signal which is interpreted by the brain as sound. It takes time and practice to learn how to hear with a cochlear implant.

Prevention of Hearing Loss

Sources indicate that hearing loss among young people is on the rise. This is largely due to the use of personal music players and exposure to loud noises at work or recreationally. Experts recommend turning the volume down and decreasing exposure. Some medications, such as the antibiotic gentamycin, are associated with hearing loss. Some factors, such as inherited hearing loss, cannot be prevented.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss

In 2006, the CDC estimated that 37 million adults had some degree of hearing loss. Three in 1,000 children born in the United States have hearing loss.

Though hearing loss seems to be on the rise, whether due to increased lifespan or other factors technology is quickly advancing to help individuals with hearing loss. The trend of teaching infants sign language has also benefited the deaf community as more Americans are learning this language. Organizations such as the American-Speech-Hearing-Language Association and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders provide valuable information and support to the public.

Sources:

American Speech-Learning-Hearing Association. Hearing Assessment. Accessed: January 5, 2009. http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/testing/assess.htm

American Speech-Learning-Hearing Association. Type, Degree, and Configuration of Hearing Loss. Accessed: January 5, 2009. http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/types.htm

Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) on General Information on Hearing Loss. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/ehdi/FAQ/questionsgeneralHL.htm

Hearing Center Online.com. Understanding Your Hearing Test. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.hearingcenteronline.com/test.shtml

Medline Plus. Hearing Loss. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003044.htm

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Cochlear Implants. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing Aids. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/hearingaid.asp

Washington Hospital Center. Signs & Symptoms of Hearing Loss. Accessed: January 7, 2009. http://www.whcenter.org/body.cfm?id=557031

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