According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hearing loss or hypoacusis is one the most common chronic health problems affecting 360 million people worldwide. It can be hereditary or a result from a disease, trauma, long-term noise exposure or medicines. In most cases, the causes leading to the loss can be prevented or treated appropriately if diagnosed early.
Deafness explained in first person
The main risk for deafness are the manipulation of the outer ear canal with cotton wabs and not to be exposed to intense noise for an extended period.
I would say that staying deaf is just too horrendous, you have an awful time, because you’re isolated, your character changes, you don’t think clearly. But I would also say that with the advances there are today, and the superb professionals who you can get over this and that together they will help you find the solution to your problem.
The ear can perceive sounds ranging from those which are barely audible to very loud noises, it can also differentiate the volume and distance, and identify very accurately the direction the sound was emitted from.
Human hearing works by converting sound waves into electrical signals which are sent from the ear to the brain via the auditory nerve. A person’s ability to hear depends on the correct working order of the ear’s structure, the auditory nerve and the area of the brain that receives and interprets sound.
The ear comprises three main parts:
Outer ear. This is formed by the externally visible part of the ear, also known as the pinna and ear canal. Sound waves, which are transmitted through the air, are collected by the pinna and ear canal then guided to the tympanum (eardrum), a flexible, circular membrane that vibrates when struck by the waves.
Middle ear. This is an air-filled space separated from the outer ear by the eardrum. It is composed of three tiny bones called hammer, anvil and stirrup, known collectively as the ossicle bones. These bones form a bridge from the eardrum to the inner ear and, when caused to vibrate in response to a vibrating eardrum, they then amplify and transmit the sound through the oval window to the inner ear.
Inner ear. The inner ear, or cochlea, is shaped like a snail shell and consists of several fluid-filled membranous sections. When the ossicle bones transmit sound through the oval window, this fluid moves and stimulates auditory nerve cells inside the cochlea. These hair cells, in turn, send electrical impulses along the auditory nerves to the brain where they are interpreted as sounds.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Topographic classification. Depending on the location of the lesion causing the problem, hearing loss can be classified as:
- Conductive hearing loss. This is related to a problem with the mechanical portion of the ear (the outer and middle ear), in other words, because of damage to structures that conduct sound waves.
- Sensorineural or perceptive hearing loss. When the damage is in the inner ear, that is, a lesion affecting the organ of Corti (the cochlea), the acoustic pathways or the auditory cerebral cortex.
- Mixed hearing loss. This is the case of hearing loss caused by different, coexisting lesions that simultaneously affect several or all auditory structures. It can be defined as a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
- Chronological classification. This classification is based on the age of onset:
- Genetic or hereditary. Transmitted through a defective gene. These cases can be early-onset hearing loss if they are present from birth or late-onset when the impairment develops throughout the patient’s lifetime.
- Acquired. Induced by unforeseen pathogenic causes. These cases can be prenatal, due to a pathogenic agent that affects the mother during the embryonic stage, perinatal, which is when damage occurs during childbirth, or postnatal, when the structures get damaged at some point during the patient’s lifetime.
- With respect to language acquisition. There are two types: prelingual deafness, which corresponds to hearing loss before the development of spoken language; and postlingual deafness, in the case of hearing loss that arises after language has been developed.
The WHO affirms that 900 million people will have hearing loss in 2050.
How many people are affected by Hearing loss?
Estimations suggest 360 million people worldwide live with a level of hearing loss that results in impairment (moderate hearing loss), wherein 91% of cases are adults and 56% are men. This corresponds to 5.3% of the world’s population. However, it is estimated that up to 15% of the global adult population has at least some degree of hearing loss. This percentage is much higher amongst people aged over 65, where as many as a third of the population has hearing loss. This figure is particularly interesting when we consider that, globally, the number of people aged 65 or over will grow between 18% and 50% between 2010 and 2020.
To date, the only reference concerning the demographics of hearing loss in Spain stems from a survey by the National Institute of Statistics (INE Survey, 2000), which cited a figure of around 1 million people with impaired hearing.