Hearing loss is considered to be anything from slight to profound impairment in the ability of a person to detect frequencies and intensities of sound. It can be acquired during life (due to injury, infection, illness, exposure to very loud noises or aging) or present at birth (congenital). It can be inherited. Hearing loss can be isolated (no other symptoms) or part of a syndrome. It can be progressive (gets worse over time) or stable. Hearing loss can occur in one or both ears, and affect different areas of the ears. There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
Deafness is the most profound form of hearing loss, where an individual can hear very little. In children, deafness is defined in children whose hearing loss is greater than 90 dB, but deafness can also occur as one ages or as part of a genetic condition such as Usher’s syndrome, illness such as Meniere’s disease, or any of the other acquired causes.
Symptoms of hearing loss or deafness include delayed development of speech or unclear speech, playing music loudly or having the volume on the television turned up, and consistent need to ask for others to repeat what they said during conversation. Diagnosis depends on the age of the individual but may include a range of tests to determine the cause. Treatment depends on the cause of the hearing loss and the type of hearing loss (conductive versus sensorineural versus mixed). If you or a family member has been diagnosed with hearing loss or deafness, talk to your doctor and audiologist about the most current treatment options. Support groups are a great source of information and will help connect you with others affected by hearing loss. If the hearing loss is part of a syndrome or is inherited, talking with a genetic counselor will help you understand more about the way it may run in your family.