Hearing loss, also known as hearing impairment, is a partial or total inability to hear. Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears. In children, hearing problems can affect the ability to learn spoken language and in adults, it can create difficulties with social interaction and at work.
A person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing – hearing thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears. Hearing loss has multiple potential causes: genetic factors, complications at birth, infectious disease, chronic ear infections, usage of certain drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and aging. The illness can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, or profound, and can affect one or both ears.
The term ‘deaf’ is used to describe the condition of people with severe or profound hearing loss in both ears as they can hear only very loud sounds or not hear anything at all.
The term ‘hard of hearing’ is used to describe the condition of people with mild to severe hearing impairment as they cannot hear as well as those with normal hearing.
For people who lose their hearing after learning to speak and hear, it can be difficult to adjust because hearing has been an essential aspect of their communication and relationships.
Four hundred and sixty-six million people across the world are estimated to be living with hearing loss. A diverse set of interventions are available to benefit people with untreatable hearing loss. These include hearing aids, cochlear implants, other assistive devices, sign language, auditory training, speech and language therapy and captioning.
Prevention is as simple as taking simple measures such as:
Protect your ears. Limiting the duration and intensity of your exposure to noise is the best protection. In the workplace, plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs can help protect your ears from damaging noise.
Avoid recreational risks by wearing hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise can protect your ears. Turning down the music volume is helpful too.
Have your hearing tested. Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. If you’ve lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.
You can’t reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.
As we observe World Hearing Day, today, March 3, let us take a closer look at the illness and help to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.