According to WHO, today about every 20th inhabitant of the planet has hearing problems, and by 2050 this problem may affect every 10th person. According to rough estimates, the number of such people in USA is more than 13 million, of which 1 million are children. According to statistics, every year one in a thousand healthy babies is born deaf. Two more of this number lose the ability to hear during the first year of life. This happens for various reasons: due to prematurity, as a result of birth trauma, as a consequence of an infectious disease during pregnancy. About half of the cases of congenital deafness are hereditary.
What is hearing
Any expert will say that in fact a person “hears” with the brain. However, if some part of the ear is damaged or does not function properly, hearing is also impaired. The ear loses the ability to “catch” sound signals and transmit them to the brain.
In order for a person to be able to hear a sound, it must be of a certain level, that is, exceed the audibility threshold. Everything below the threshold is perceived as silence. Everything that is much higher is perceived with pain. Different people perceive sounds differently, but for most, the pain threshold of sound is about 130 decibels. But the sound, for example, at 35 dB may be too loud for some, while others may not even hear it. Why this happens, we will find out now.
What causes hearing loss
There can be a great many reasons for hearing impairment. In addition, even seemingly harmless habits of a person can affect the operation of a hearing aid.
The influence of the age factor on the work of the hearing aid is already indicated by the fact that most people with hearing problems are elderly. And again, let’s turn to the statistics. If only 17% of 45-year-olds hear poorly, then in the age category after 65 there are at least 35% of them.
The reason is that the ears, like any other organ, are subject to age-related changes. And what is important, all parts of the organ are aging – starting with the outer ear, the auditory canal, the tympanic cavity and ending with the ear labyrinth. With age, the auricle becomes thin and flabby, the auditory canal narrows, and many even bend, which disrupts the transmission of sound waves. In the elderly, the eardrum thickens greatly, the system of functioning of the bones of the middle ear and the joints between them is disrupted. But most importantly, with age, certain changes occur in the cerebral cortex, as well as the functionality of the auditory nerve is disrupted. As a result of these changes, the entire sound-receiving apparatus suffers.
Nowadays, experts know more than 400 genetic disorders that cause hearing problems or complete deafness. In some cases, disorders may manifest immediately after birth, in others – develop at different rates with age.
Injuries and water
Everyone knows cotton swabs that are used to remove sulfur from the ears. But if the procedure is carried out incorrectly, you can damage the inner ear, and this is fraught with deafness.
Hearing loss can be called an occupational disease of swimmers. Of course, not all of them. But only those whose water regularly enters the ears and accumulates behind the eardrum.
Taking some medications
Almost every medicine has a list of side effects. But do we often read these warnings and, most importantly, how seriously do we take what is written in the instructions for use of the medicine? And by the way, some groups of drugs (especially if you take them without a doctor’s prescription or do not follow the treatment regimen) can cause side effects in the form of hearing impairment. The most dangerous for the hearing aid are:
- ototoxic antibiotics;
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- loop diuretics.
Many ENT diseases (and not only them) can forever leave their imprint on the work of the hearing aid. The most dangerous is otitis media of the middle ear.
Moreover, both chronic and acute otitis media, which gave complications, are equally dangerous for the device. In any case, after the disease, scarring may begin in the auditory canal, which has an extremely negative effect on the mobility of the auditory ossicles and the eardrum. Therefore, the most common consequence of otitis media is persistent hearing loss.
Infectious diseases that occur with complications can affect the operation of the hearing aid. They are the second most common cause of hearing loss. Mumps (mumps), measles, scarlet fever and even the banal flu can lead to deterioration of the hearing aid. By the way, during a normal runny nose, hearing can also worsen for a while (usually within 10-15 decibels). If the runny nose is not treated or treated incorrectly, then it can develop into otitis media (inflammation of the ear), and that can cause damage to the auditory nerve. In addition, it is very important to clean your nose properly during a runny nose. So that the mucus from it does not get into the ear and does not cause purulent inflammation behind the eardrum, first one nostril should be blown out, then the other. But it is absolutely impossible to clamp both at once, as children do, or to draw mucus inside – a complication in the form of otitis is provided.
Thrombosis is no less dangerous for the hearing aid. Many are afraid of thrombosis, as it can cause blockage of the heart artery. But in the same way, a detached blood clot can clog the vessel of the inner ear, resulting in possible damage to the auditory nerve and deafness. By the way, something similar can happen after a concussion or other head injury.
Other diseases, complications of which are hearing loss:
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- diabetes mellitus;
- Meniere ‘s disease;
The fact that there is a very strong noise or sharp vibrations is bad, even children know. However, we are talking not only about the usual “you can’t shout loudly in your ear”, but also about the workers of “noisy” industries. For miners, builders, workers of the machine-building industry, machinists and many others, hearing loss is one of the professional ailments. According to experts, in the USA alone, about 4 million people have hearing problems due to their professional activities.
Speaking of excessive noise, it is impossible not to mention concerts and discos. The sound power on many of them can reach 120-130 dB. To understand what happens at such events with a hearing aid, it is enough to say only one thing: irreversible damage in the ears can begin after several hours of listening to the sound of 85 dB.
Headphones deserve a separate conversation. ENT doctors say that this is the main cause of hearing impairment in children and young people. Prolonged listening to the player through headphones with a sound volume of 85 decibels (approximately the same noise is produced by a vacuum cleaner) triggers irreversible processes in the ear. If the volume in the headphones is increased by only 3 more points, then the time during which the hearing aid is able to withstand such a sound without consequences is reduced by 2 times. But as the researchers found, the sound in the headphones of most young people usually reaches 90-110 dB. Experts have calculated that without harm to the ears, the player can be listened to no more than 1 hour a day and it is better not to use in-ear headphones. And ideally, it is better to completely abandon the players and headphones in favor of a healthy hearing aid.
Long conversations on the phone
Many people do not even realize, but even talking on the phone can lead to damage to the auditory nerve, and therefore to hearing impairment. Prolonged contact with the ear is an unsafe effect of electromagnetic radiation on the hearing aid. Experts advise talking on a cell phone for a maximum of 3 minutes in a row, after taking a break.
It would seem that there can be a relationship between stress and the work of the hearing aid. But it exists. Let’s say even more: because of stress, you can lose your hearing. The fact is that stress is accompanied by the release of a large amount of adrenaline, which causes the vessels in the body to spasm. Everything would be fine, but there is only one vessel in the inner ear – the labyrinth artery. If a stressful state causes a spasm in her, you can not even dream about the ability to hear well.
A group of Japanese researchers came to the conclusion that smoking tobacco can cause hearing impairment. Scientists conducted a study with the participation of 50 thousand people aged 20 to 64 years. It turned out that people who smoke up to 10 cigarettes a day have a 1.4-fold increased risk of developing deafness. For those who smoke from 10 to 20 cigarettes daily, this indicator rises to 1.7.
Scientists believe that the whole point is the toxic effect of nicotine on the body and the violation of blood circulation in smokers, which in combination has a very negative effect on the functioning of the inner ear. But after giving up the bad habit, the hearing of former smokers is almost the same as that of people who have never smoked.
Causes associated with disorders in different parts of the ear
- The outer ear. In such cases, the cause of hearing impairment usually lies in sulfur plugs or in an infection that has penetrated the ear canal. As a rule, it is not difficult to eliminate these causes. By the way, recently scientists from the University of Montreal found out that the shape of the auricle also affects the perception of sound, and it is known that all people have a unique one. If its shape is artificially changed, then the hearing aid’s ability to determine the source of sound in space is impaired. In other words, a person hears a sound, but cannot understand where it comes from. However, researchers still recognize that over time the brain adjusts to new conditions and hearing is restored.
- Middle ear. The most common cause of this group is damage to the eardrum. This may be an inflammatory process, fluid accumulation or rupture of the membrane. In addition, among the common problems of the middle ear, experts call otosclerosis (impaired mobility of the bones of the middle ear). Most of the problems associated with impaired functioning of the middle ear can be treated (although some only by surgical intervention).
- The inner ear. If a person completely or partially loses the ability to hear, then in most cases the reason is precisely the violation of the functioning of the inner ear. The cause of such disorders may be the age-related changes already mentioned, excessive exposure to loud sounds in the ear, the use of toxic drugs, head trauma. Unfortunately, changes in the inner ear are usually irreversible processes. With the help of drug therapy, they cannot be stopped or the patient’s condition restored, but the progression can be slowed down.
Hearing disorders, what are
There are 4 degrees of hearing loss:
- Grade 1 – slight hearing loss. A person can distinguish sounds from 26 to 40 dB (a healthy hearing aid can pick up the quietest sounds up to 20 dB). With such a deviation, it can be difficult to make out the soft speech of the interlocutor or to hear the distant (6 m or more) speech or noise in silence. A person often asks again.
- Grade 2 – moderate hearing loss. The ability to distinguish sounds only at frequencies from 40-55 dB. In other words, the patient is able to hear only what will be said quite loudly and then at a distance no further than 4 m from him. With this deviation, the whisper is distinguishable only if you pronounce the words right next to your ear.
- Grade 3 – severe hearing loss (55-70 dB). This condition is characterized by the inability to distinguish most sounds. A person will hear loud spoken speech only from a distance of 2-3 m. 4 degree – deep hearing loss (71-90 dB). The condition borders on complete deafness. A person can hear very loud sounds from a distance of up to 1 m. Complete deafness – the patient will not even hear a scream near the ear.
The first signs of hearing loss
You may have hearing impairments if:
- you often ask the interlocutor what he said;
- it can be difficult to hear everything that the interlocutors say if there are more than two of them;
- do you hear ringing in your ears;
- sometimes it seems that people around you are talking in a low voice;
- in a noisy environment, it is difficult to make out the interlocutor’s speech;
- regularly turn up the volume of the TV, radio;
- there are already people with hearing loss in your family;
- they took medications harmful to the hearing aid for a long time;
- I had to be close to the explosion site or another source of very loud sound.
How important it is to have good hearing, many begin to understand only when they lose this ability. Hearing can worsen with age, but in addition to the age factor, there are many others that can be prevented.