INTRODUCTION TO HEARING IMPAIRMENT
If you are hearing impaired, it can mean you are partly or completely unable to hear in one or two ears.
There are four levels of deafness.
- If you have mild deafness, you may find it difficult to talk to people especially in noisy places.
- If you are moderately deaf, you may not be able to hear someone talking without using a hearing aid.
- If you are severely deaf, you need to lip-read or use sign language, even with a hearing aid.
- Finally, if you are profoundly deaf, you must rely only on lip-reading and sign language.
WHAT CAUSES IT
- Age: This is the most common cause of hearing impairment. Most people start to lose of their hearing when they are between 30 and 40 years old. This gets worse as you grow older, and by 80 years old you would have significant hearing problems.
- Acoustic trauma: This means your ears are damaged from hearing loud noises for a long time.
- Conductive hearing loss: This means sound cannot enter the inner part of your ears. It can be caused by something blocking your ear, such as earwax, or a build-up of fluid that could be caused by infection.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This happens after the sensitive hair cells in your ear are damaged.
HOW IT IS DIAGNOSED
A doctor will use an auriscope, which is an instrument with a light at one end, to look into your ear to find anything abnormal, such as fluid coming out of the ear or blockage. Your doctor may also look at your ear drum to see if it is bulging or has a hole.
HOW IT IS TREATED
- Hearing aids: This increases the volume of sound entering your ear so you can hear more clearly.
- Cochlear implants: These are hearing devices that are inserted into your inner ear. They take over what your damaged inner ear does, and passes sound on to the remaining nerves in your ears that are not damaged.
- Sign language and lip-reading: People who have learnt to talk before they lost their hearing can learn lip-reading to make it easier to understand what other people are saying. Those born with hearing problems may find lip-reading more difficult, and may learn sign language instead.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
- Do not turn up your television, radio or music volume up too high. This is especially so for young children, who have more delicate hearing.
- Use headphones that block outside noises: This keeps you from having to turn up the volume, which can damage your hearing.
- Do not insert objects in your ears: This includes fingers, cotton buds, and tissue paper, which can hurt your ears.
- Protect your ears in noisy environments: If you work in a construction site, workshop or some other noisy environment, use the right equipment to protect your ears. Do the same if you are in a noisy event such as motor races or loud concerts.
- Be aware of symptoms of hearing loss.
Source: Singapore Silver Pages, an initiative by the Agency for Integrated Care. Reproduced with permission.
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