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The Facts on Deafness

Deafness is the inability to hear sound. It has many causes and can occur at any age. People can go deaf suddenly as a complication of a virus, or lose their hearing over time because of disease, nerve damage, or injury caused by noise. About 1 in 800 babies is born deaf, often because of genetic factors.

What Causes Deafness?

Hearing loss is a spectrum with minor hearing problems at one end and profound, complete deafness at the other.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when something blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or to the nerves that send sound to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is more likely to be permanent and to cause deafness. Sometimes a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss can occur.

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. Examples include:

  • Meniere’s disease,
  • hearing loss of ageing (presbycusis),
  • nerve injury from syphilis,
  • hearing loss of unknown cause (idiopathic hearing loss),
  • nerve tumors and;
  • 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:

  • ear wax blocking the ear canal,
  • otitis media and;
  • otosclerosis.

Hearing loss is deterioration in hearing. Deafness is profound hearing loss.

  • Hearing loss, which becomes more common among older people, has many causes, most notably noise exposure.
  • Audiometry defines the extent and characteristics of hearing loss.
  • Most hearing loss is not treatable except with hearing aids and, rarely, surgery.

What is the treatment for hearing loss?

The treatment of hearing loss depends on its cause. For example:

  • ear wax can be removed,
  • ear infection can be treated with medications,
  • medications that are toxic to the ear can be avoided and;
  • occasionally surgical procedures are necessary

If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms, please seek professional help.