Studies have shown that there are over 9 million people in the UK alone with deafness or some degree of hearing loss and over 28 million in the United States and a staggering 360 million people throughout the entire world suffer from deafness or are hard of hearing.
Hearing loss or deafness can be categorised into two main types, Conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is caused by the interference of transmission of sound from the outer to the inner ear. Possible cause of this may include:
Middle ear infections, collection of fluid in the ear more commonly known as “glue ear” which occurs mostly in children, blockage of the outer ear by wax, damage to the ear drum caused by injury or infection, otosclerosis which is when the middle ear becomes immobile due to growth of the surrounding bone and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss occurs when damage to the pathway for sound impulses from the hair cells of the inner ear to the auditory nerve and brain occur.
Possible causes of this can include: Age related hearing loss our hearing often declines the older we get, acoustic trauma which means injury caused by loud noises, viral infections, Ménière’s disease which is caused by abnormal pressure in the ear, acoustic neuroma which is a benign tumour that affects the auditory nerve, meningitis and a stroke.
While the majority of deaf and hard of hearing people are elderly, roughly every 12 out of a 1000 people with some degree of deafness and hearing loss are under the age of 18.
The Main Causes Of Deafness in Children
Many children each year are born deaf because of genetic reasons; deafness can be passed down through the family even if there seems to have been no history of deafness in the family.
Complications that arise during pregnancy can also have an affect on the unborn child resulting in deafness this is usually caused by the mother contracting rubella, toxoplasmosis or herpes while pregnant.
Premature birth is also thought to be a high risk category for deafness as babies born early are more prone to infections that can cause deafness. In early childhood diseases such as meningitis, measles and mumps can often cause deafness as can drugs called Ototoxic which are mainly used to treat infections in babies.
Treating Hearing Loss
The actual treatment available for hearing loss will depend on what caused the loss in the first place; bacterial infections of the inner ear can be treated successfully with a course of antibiotics.
Hearing loss caused by blockages of the inner or outer ear can be cleared and damaged eardrums can sometimes be successfully repaired by surgery. Hearing loss in the elderly cannot be cured but it can be improved successfully with the use of an hearing aid.