Hearing disability: what is it?

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Hearing impairment can be caused by damage or deformity in the outer, middle, or inner ear, and can be either acquired or congenital. Treatment options include medication, surgery, hearing aids, and cochlear implants.

Hearing impairment is the partial or complete loss of the ability to hear in one or both ears, caused by damage or deformity of one or more parts of the ear. An individual can have hearing problems from birth or can develop the condition at any time during their life. The condition can be based in the outer, middle or inner ear. Depending on the cause of the disability and the area in which it is found, the condition may be treatable with medication, surgery, or hearing aids.

The term hearing impairment can refer to either partial or complete loss of the ability to hear in one or both ears. In some cases, the damage occurs after one or more structures in the ear have been damaged. Many factors can cause ear damage. Common causes include infections, prolonged exposure to very loud noises, adverse drug reactions, puncture of a part of the ear such as the eardrum, and head injuries. Damage that occurs as a result of damage to the ear sustained in an individual’s lifetime is called acquired hearing loss.

In other cases, hearing loss occurs because one or more parts of the ear are deformed or have never worked properly. For example, a baby may have a genetic condition that causes him or her to be born with a non-functioning hearing nerve. The impairment that exists from birth is called congenital hearing loss.

It is possible that the cause of your hearing impairment lies in the outer, middle or inner ear. The outer and middle ear are made up of structures that draw sound into the inner ear. Damage due to damage or deformity of one of these structures is known as conductive hearing loss. The damage or deformity of the inner ear, which transmits sound from the outer and middle ears to the brain, is known as sensorineural hearing loss. Damage that is both conductive and sensorineural is known as mixed hearing loss.

Some forms of hearing impairment are partially or completely treatable. Damage caused by fluid buildup, for example, can be treated with drainage, while damage caused by an injury such as a perforated eardrum can gradually diminish as the injury heals. People with lifelong disabilities may be able to get partially or fully restored hearing with hearing aids or removable devices worn in the outer ear to amplify sounds. Individuals with severe disabilities may benefit from cochlear implants, permanent devices built into the inner ear to transmit sound to the auditory nerve. People with intractable disabilities often choose to communicate using sign language and lip reading.

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