Hearing loss is the total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both of the ears. Hearing loss falls into three major categories:
1) Conductive hearing loss: This occurs in the outer and middle ear, when the transmission of sound vibrations is prevented from reaching the hearing organ (cochlea) in the inner ear.
2) Sensorineural hearing loss:This occurs in the inner ear, when the hearing organ (cochlea) or hearing nerve is damaged, so sound vibrations cannot be converted into nerve impulses (sensory loss) that the brain can process.
3) Mixed: This refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
People of all ages can experience hearing loss – from mild to profound. It can be congenital, genetic with slow progression over time, due to long or frequent exposure to loud noise, or a result of frequent ear infections.
Common causes of hearing loss include earwax accumulation and ear infections, which are treatable. Hearing loss can also occur from very severe infections of the middle or inner ears, head injuries, tumors, heart conditions, stroke, and even certain medications and become permanent.
Hearing loss may cause you to have trouble understanding others when there is background noise, and frequently ask others to repeat themselves. Speech can sound muffled, the ear can feel plugged, and sound volume will seem low. There may also be a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears, also known as tinnitus.
Treatment for hearing loss is dependent on the cause and degree of your impairment. In cases of earwax, removal is immediately helpful. In some people, hearing loss can be surgically corrected. For others, medical devices and rehabilitation therapies can help reduce hearing loss. While there is no cure for age-related or noise induced hearing loss, there are solutions, like hearing aids or cochlear implants, that can improve your ability to hear.