Hearing loss is one of the commonest reasons for a patient to visit an ENT Specialist.
Hearing loss cab broadly be classified into TWO TYPES:
- Conductive Hearing Loss - which is caused by problems in the outer ear and middle ear and is usually treatable with medication and/ or surgery
- Sensory Neural Hearing Loss - This is related to a loss in the Hearing organ (Cochlea) or in the Nerve of hearing and beyond (Neural). Once established this type of hearing loss is not amenable to medical treatment or surgery.
The earliest signs of hearing loss would be:
- Ask people to repeat themselves - especially those who speak softly or from behind your back
- Have a problem in picking up a conversation in crowded places like Railway Stations, Restaurants, Parties etc.
- Start speaking loudly - since you cannot hear your own voice well there is a tendency for you to speak loudly
- Hear a buzzing sound in your ears - Tinnitus
- Withdrawal from social situations since you are embarrassed that you will not understand what people are going to say to you and you will not how to respond. People may laugh at you.
There is an associated annoyance because you feel people around you are mumbling and do not speak clearly.
You prefer to have the person or speaker sit in front of you so that you may do some lip reading and pick up speech cues.
Prolonged isolation due to lack of interest in meeting new acquaintances leads to social isolation and depression - a lack of purpose in life.
In these situations, it is imperative to examine and check for treatable causes of hearing loss like impacted wax in the ears or some ear blockage on account of a cold. When these are treated the patient feels a little relieved.
The proper assessment is by performing an Audiogram test and checking for hearing. The degree and type of hearing loss will determine our treatment strategy.
In the present day very advanced and sophisticated hearing aids are available for use and this help the patient in reaching a near-normal hearing.
They should be counselled and guided to use these hearing aids sooner rather than later so that they get the maximum benefit from the device and to improve the quality of their life.