Deafness – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Deafness is the loss of the ability to hear, either in one or both ears. Untreated deafness can make the sufferer feel isolated from the environment, and experience anxiety and depression.

The hearing process occurs when sound waves enter the ear and vibrate the eardrum. These vibrations will be transmitted to the auditory ossicles and then continue to the nerve cells in the brain, which will be translated into sound.

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Deafness occurs due to interference at one or several stages in the hearing process. This condition can arise from birth, suddenly, or develop over time.

Causes of Deafness

The causes of deafness vary greatly, depending on the part of the ear that is affected. Here is the explanation:

Conductive deafness

Conductive deafness can occur due to disorders in the external ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear. This condition causes sound waves to not enter the inner ear. Conductive deafness usually resolves after the cause is treated.

Causes of conductive deafness may include:

  • Torn eardrum
  • Earwax buildup (prop cerumen)
  • Foreign objects blocking the ear canal
  • Abnormal growth of skin cells behind the eardrum (cholesteatoma)
  • Abnormal growth or hardening of the auditory bones (otosclerosis)
  • External ear infection (otitis externa)
  • Scarring of the ear due to repeated infections

Sensory deafness

This type of deafness is caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. As a result, sound waves do not reach the brain. This condition can be permanent.

Sensory deafness can occur due to several conditions below:

  • Aging process
  • Congenital disorders, including Usher syndrome
  • Long-term exposure to loud sounds, for example due to working in building construction
  • Head injury
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic neuroma, which is a benign tumor that grows on the nerve connecting the ear and the brain
  • Disease complications, such as meningitis, measles, mumps and scarlet fever
  • Use of drugs that can cause side effects in the ear, such as chemotherapy drugs or quinine drugs

A person can also experience a combination of conduction and sensory hearing loss. This type of deafness is usually caused by genetic disorders and head injuries. Apart from adults, deafness can also occur in babies.

Some conditions that can increase the risk of a baby experiencing deafness are:

  • Born prematurely
  • Experiencing complications at birth
  • Frequently suffer from ear infections
  • Experiencing complications due to infectious diseases, such as meningitis
    or cytomegalovirus

Symptoms of Deafness

In adults, hearing loss usually occurs gradually. Symptoms that can arise in deaf sufferers include:

  • Can’t hear sound clearly, even from the phone
  • Often asks others to repeat what they say
  • Often misunderstand the meaning of other people’s words
  • Feeling that other people are mumbling or not being clear when speaking
  • Listening to music or watching at a higher volume than others require
  • It’s difficult to follow a conversation, especially when more than one person is speaking
  • Feeling tired or stressed if you take part in activities that require concentration in listening, for example attending seminars
  • Experiencing a sensation of ringing in the ears (tinnitus), pain in the ears, or a feeling of fullness in the ears

Meanwhile, in babies, symptoms of deafness can include:

  • Not startled or cry when hearing loud noises
  • Doesn’t smile when spoken to or joking
  • Does not turn to the sound source when his name is called, in babies aged 3 months or more
  • Does not babble or imitate sounds when 6 months or older
  • Does not say words, such as “mama” or “papa” when 12 months or older
  • Not interested in objects or toys that make sounds
  • Not hearing when called and not realizing someone’s presence until they see who is coming

When the child is older, symptoms that can arise due to deafness are:

  • Not speaking or unable to pronounce sentences clearly
  • Seems unable to concentrate or follow commands
  • Does not provide an appropriate answer to the question
  • Often hear loud noises when listening to music or watching
  • Experiencing disruption in learning

When to see a doctor

You need to see a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of deafness, or if your hearing loss does not improve despite treatment.

Seek immediate medical attention at the emergency room if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Hearing loss occurs suddenly
  • Hearing worsens over days or weeks
  • The ear feels sore or smelly fluid comes out of the ear

Take your baby to the doctor immediately if he experiences symptoms as mentioned above. Early examination and treatment needs to be carried out to prevent complications.

Deaf Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms, medical history, and medications the patient is currently taking. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination of the ear to look for signs of infection, accumulated wax, or disorders of the ear structure.

The doctor will also perform a whisper test and a tuning fork test. In the whisper test, the doctor will whisper at a distance of less than 1 meter behind the patient, while the tuning fork test is carried out by ringing the tuning fork and placing it on the patient’s head.

To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor can carry out the following supporting examinations:

  • Hearing tests, which consist of many types of examination, including speech perception tests and tympanometry
  • Audiometry test, to check the ear’s ability to hear sounds in various volumes and intonations
  • CT scan or MRI of the head, to detect tumors that can interfere with hearing

Deafness Treatment

Treatment for deafness depends on the cause and severity. Here is the explanation:

  • Earwax cleaning

This procedure aims to remove accumulated earwax or foreign objects that block the ear and cause deafness. The doctor will use suction or a special tool.

  • Hearing aids

Hearing aids are recommended for patients who suffer from deafness due to disorders of the inner ear. This tool can help patients hear sounds louder and clearer.

  • Cochlear implant

Cochlear implant placement is preferred in patients whose hearing does not improve with hearing aids. This tool is implanted on the side of the head.

  • Operation

Surgery is performed to treat deafness due to injury or tumor in the ear, disorders of the eardrum, or otosclerosis.

For deafness caused by side effects of medication, the doctor will advise the patient to stop taking the medication and replace it with another medication.

Complications of Deafness

Untreated deafness can reduce the quality of life, because sufferers have difficulty communicating. This condition can even cause mental disorders, such as feeling isolated, easily angry or offended, as well as anxiety disorders and severe depression.

In babies, deafness can hinder emotional development, as well as motor, language and cognitive abilities. When they enter school age, deaf children are also at risk of experiencing obstacles in learning.

Deafness Prevention

To reduce the risk of deafness, several efforts that can be taken are:

  • Use earplugs if you work or do activities in places that are too noisy, such as building construction or road repairs.
  • Get a hearing test every year, especially if working in a noisy environment.
  • Perform hearing screening on babies aged 3 weeks and hearing tests on children aged 4 years.
  • Don’t listen to music or watch television with the sound too loud, especially when using earphones.
  • Make sure your child gets immunizations

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