Hearing loss can be summed as a deficiency in hearing. Anyone with a hearing range of fewer than 20 decibels is described as a person with hearing loss and may need to use hearing aids.
Hearing loss can range from mild to profound, profound hearing loss being deafness. Statistics show that 1 in every 11 Singaporeans has a hearing loss in either one or both ears.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
- People with hearing loss constantly ask others to repeat themselves.
- People with hearing loss listen to music or watch TV at a much higher volume than most people need.
- Problems with hearing the person on the other end during a phone call.
- A person with hearing loss would find it hard to keep up with conversations and would get frustrated.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) occurs due to damage in the auditory nerve or hearing nerve or inner ear; it is the most common cause of hearing loss in adults. The inner ear contains an organ called the cochlea; the cochlea contains tiny hairs called stereocilia.
Stereocilia convert vibrations from sound waves into neural signals that the auditory nerve carries to the brain. Exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (for example, sounds generated by city traffic heard from inside a car) can damage the tiny hairs in the cochlea.
SNHL is very likely to occur when 30% to 50% of the stereocilia is damaged.
Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
- Loud Noises (noise induced hearing loss): Exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can lead to SNHL in individuals. SNHL can occur in individuals constantly exposed to loud noises or a one-time exposure to very loud noise such as a gunshot.
- Heredity: Genetics can make certain people prone to SNHL.
- Head trauma.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease.
- Presbycusis (age related hearing loss).
Presbycusis is used to describe the gradual loss of hearing in both ears due to ageing. Most people do not know they have presbycusis because it happens slowly.
Most of the time, the person can hear high-pitched sounds such as microwave beeps that are affected. Presbycusis is one of the causes of SNHL.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused whenever sound waves cannot find their way to the cochlea. Conductive hearing loss occurs due to problems with the eardrum, ear canal, or the middle ear and its bones.
Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
- A perforated eardrum in the middle ear.
- The presence of a foreign object in the ear can lead to conductive hearing loss.
- Ear canal infection.
- A Malformed outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear structure.
- Otosclerosis (middle ear).
Otosclerosis is a rare ear condition due to abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. This condition is a common cause of hearing loss in young adults.
Otosclerosis leads to conductive hearing loss. Otosclerosis can be treated with hearing aids in mild cases or surgery in more extreme cases.
Hearing Loss Singapore: Diagnosis and Hearing Tests
Certain examinations and hearing tests are needed to diagnose hearing loss either in one or both ears effectively. A Nose, Ear, and Throat (ENT) specialist would carry out a thorough head and neck examination at the hospital.
Depending on the situation, neurological and endoscopic examinations may be carried out. A hearing test (audiogram) would also be carried out to detect and show the hearing loss and its severity.
Hearing loss prevention starts with early detection. Frequent hearing tests would help you discover problems early, prevent further hearing damage, and start early treatment if necessary.