What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can either be congenital or acquired following birth. It can either be caused by problems of the outer ear, the middle ear or the inner ear. It can also be divided into the speed of onset of symptoms.
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Hearing loss can occur with conditions affecting the outer, middle and inner ear areas.
Otitis externa/Otitis Media
Build up of wax
Glue Ear (Otitis Media with Effusion)
These conditions have been discussed before. Glue ear is a very common condition affecting young children and usually due to the presence of blockage of the eustachian tubes. Children have eustachian tubes which are narrower and more horizontal relative to adults. Also they invariably have large adenoids which are like tonsil like tissue sitting at the back of the nose between the opening of the eustachian tubes. The adenoid tissue is often teeming with infective agents such as viruses or bacteria and the eustachian tubes get obstructed. This results initially in a negative pressure in the middle ear and thereafter a compensatory effusion of fluid which then causes hearing loss due to the inability of the ear drum to vibrate.
In the vast majority of children this requires no treatment and is usually short lived. However if the condition lasts for over three months during the formative years it can have a detrimental effect on speech. There is also a higher chance of developing episodes of otitis media with pain, discharge and fever. Other symptoms can occur apart from hearing loss which includes poor speech development, unsteadiness and poor social integration. There appears to be increased risks of glue ear when the child’s parents smoke. Depending on the severity and duration of symptoms the patient may require grommet insertion with removal of adenoids.
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Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. This is a rare condition but can be quite devastating. The patient has sudden onset of hearing lose usually on one side and can be associated with a ringing tone in the ear. Although the cause has not yet been determined the cause is likely to be due to a virus. Other possible causes are a cessation of blood flow due to blockage of the feeding artery to the inner ear. This diagnosis requires urgent attention and the sooner treatment starts with high doses of oral steroids the more chance there is of recovery of hearing. The diagnosis and treatment is best made by an ENT Specialist.
The patent usually presents with a history of using either an implement or inserting a foreign body into the ear canal and this is usually visible. Other causes for sudden gearing loss include a stroke or head trauma.