Hearing impairments

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Hearing impairments are problems that occur within the hearing pathway, but it can also stem from a disturbance in the auditory nerve to the brain.

Hearing impairments that happen at birth are called ‘congenital’ hearing impairments and ‘acquired’ hearing impairments develop throughout the course of a lifetime. Over half the population aged between 60 and 70 years old experience hearing loss.

Loud noises contribute to around 37 percent of hearing impairments. Other causes include blockage, accident, illness, chemical abuse or damage to the ear, cochlear or hearing nerve.

Symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of social interaction
  • Hearing ringing in ears

There are two main types of hearing impairment. A conductive hearing impairment is when outside sounds have trouble getting to or through the inside of the ear. It is usually caused by middle ear infections and is temporary.

A sensorineural hearing impairment is when the nerves in charge of receiving and interpreting sound don’t work properly. This type of hearing impairment can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and can worsen over time.

People with a hearing impairment can get an amplification or assistive listening device. These devices include hearing aids, bone conduction implants, cochlear implants and personal frequency modulation (FM) systems.

Early intervention has shown positive outcomes in children and people of all ages learn to communicate with others in different ways when their hearing is impacted.

Speak to your GP or audiologist if you suspect you or your child may be experiencing symptoms of hearing loss.

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