A person who is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing – hearing thresholds of 25 dB or better in both ears – is said to have hearing loss. Hearing loss may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. It can affect one ear or both ears, and leads to difficulty in hearing conversational speech or loud sounds. 'Hard of hearing' refers to people with hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. People who are hard of hearing usually communicate through spoken language and can benefit from hearing aids. Not all hearing loss is the same. Treatment will depend on the type of hearing loss you have. Audiologists can help.
The causes of hearing loss and deafness can be congenital or acquired.
Congenital causes may lead to hearing loss being present at or acquired soon after birth. Hearing loss can be caused by hereditary and non-hereditary genetic factors or by certain complications during pregnancy and childbirth, including:
Acquired causes may lead to hearing loss at any age, such as:
One of the main impacts of hearing loss is on the individual’s ability to communicate with others. Spoken language development is often delayed in children with unaddressed hearing loss. Older people who can’t hear well may become depressed, or they may withdraw from others because they feel frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what is being said. Sometimes, older people are mistakenly thought to be confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative because they don’t hear well. Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can get worse. If you have a hearing problem, see your Audiologist.
Overall, it is suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures. In children under 15 years of age, 60% of hearing loss is attributable to preventable causes. This figure is higher in low- and middle-income countries (75%) as compagreen to high-income countries (49%). Overall, preventable causes of childhood hearing loss include:
Early detection and intervention are crucial to minimizing the impact of hearing loss on a child’s development and educational achievements. In infants and young children with hearing loss, early identification and management through infant hearing screening programmes can improve the linguistic and educational outcomes for the child. People with hearing loss can benefit from the use of hearing devices, such as hearing aids. Hearing aids are sound-amplifying devices designed to aid people who have a hearing impairment. They may also benefit from speech therapy, aural rehabilitation and other related services Making properly-fitted hearing aids and providing follow-up services will benefit many people with hearing loss.
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