Hearing Impairment

What is Hearing Impairment?

Hearing impairment is the inability of an individual to hear sounds adequately. This may be due to improper development, damage or disease to any part of the hearing mechanism. Hearing is a prerequisite for the development of normal speech & language. A child learns to speak by hearing the speech of others in the family and surroundings.

Deafness is an invisible impairment. Keen observation is necessary in order to identify a deaf child/individual. Deafness at birth or in early childhood has disastrous effects on the child's overall development. These effects vary depending upon the age of onset, nature and degree of hearing impairment.

Types of Hearing Impairment

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss: Conductive hearing loss results from defects in the outer or middle ear. The sound is not conducted efficiently to the inner ear. All sounds heard thus become weak and/or muffled. Usually such individuals speak softly irrespective of the surrounding environmental noise.
    Diagram of ear, where outer & middle ear is highlighted.
    Conditions that cause conductive hearing loss are:
    • Wax in the ear canal.
    • Diseases of the outer and middle ear associated with symptoms like ear ache and ear discharge.
    • Congenital defects in the outer or middle ear – defect and damage to the outer or middle ear.
    • Upper respiratory tract infections.
    • Neglect of care of ears and oral cavity (mouth).
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss is caused due to damage or disease of the inner ear or auditory nerve. It could also result as an after effect of infectious diseases like measles, mumps, meningitis and T.B.

    Diagram of ear, where inner ear & auditory nerve is highlighted.

    Some conditions that may cause congenital sensorineural hearing loss are:

    • Hereditary childhood deafness
    • Rh incompatibility
    • Premature birth – birth before due time
    • Birth Asphyxia (lack of oxygen supply to the new born due to inability to breathe normally resulting in blueness of baby due to various reasons).
    • Viral infections in pregnancy
    • Exposure to X–rays in the first trimester or pregnancy – taking X–ray within the first three months
    • Harmful drugs of mycin variety e.g. streptomycin
    • Acoustic neuroma (Tumor of the auditory nerve)
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss: Mixed hearing loss is the combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. One of the main causes of this type of loss is the long standing ear infection known as Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM). In CSOM, ear discharge in the form of pus, blood or clear water is seen. This starts with conductive loss yielding to sensorineural impairment, if not treated immediately and regularly.
    Diagram of the ear, where all parts of the ear are highlighted.
  4. Central Hearing Loss: Central hearing loss is due to a damage, malformation or infections of the neural pathways and the hearing centres in the brain. The child may hear but has difficulty in understanding what he hears. Some of the children classified as learning disabled or slow learners may have this type of hearing loss.
    Diagram of ear connected with the brain, where brain is highlighted.
  5. Functional Hearing Loss: Functional hearing loss is due to some psychogenic condition or maybe due to deliberate exaggeration of hearing thresholds for personal gains.

Information About: