Hearing impairment is a disability affecting about 1 in 10 North Americans. Hearing impairment results from a structural abnormality (such as a hole in the eardrum) that may or may not produce a functional disability (such as diminished hearing).
Hearing loss can be conductive (due to faulty transmission of sound waves) or sensorineural (faulty sound reception by nerve cells), or both. Common causes of conductive hearing loss are wax blocking the ear, a perforated eardrum, or fluid in the ears. Common reasons for sensorineural deafness are noise exposure, age-related changes, and ototoxic drugs (that damage hearing). Hearing loss can be:
The causes of hearing loss may be congenital (present at birth) - genetic, use of ototoxic drugs during pregnancy, prenatal rubella in expectant mothers, infections during pregnancy, perinatal anoxia (fetal oxygen lack), or Rh blood disease. Or, the cause may be acquired hearing loss - noise exposure, presbycusis, infections that affect the middle ear and inner ear such as mumps, measles and influenza, middle ear infections, ototoxicity (drugs that harm the inner ear), head injuries, benign tumors of the hearing nerve (acoustic neuroma), and cancer (rare).
Appropriately chosen, properly fitted, and regularly checked, hearing aids can greatly improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired persons. They are prescribed according to the type and severity of hearing loss, how well someone can manipulate the aid, and the condition of the ear canal. They work by amplifying sound and are most effective in quiet areas - as for one to one conversations and small group interaction. Some devices for the hard of hearing are designed for a particular situation. For example, for watching TV a specific amplifier improves the sound signal and mutes background noise. Most hearing aids currently sold are behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE), or in the ear canal (ITC).
Is there significant hearing loss? Is the loss conductive or sensorineural? What is the degree of loss - mild, moderate, or severe? What is causing the loss? Is a hearing aid needed? What kind of hearing aid do you recommend? What degree of improvement in hearing can be expected? What will a hearing aid cost?