What Is Deafness?
Deafness is described as hearing loss or hearing impairment. It can be defined as any loss of hearing below a frequency of 25 decibels (dB). Hearing loss can present at different degrees of severity, ranging from mild impairment to complete loss of hearing. The disabling hearing loss is defined as any loss below 45dB.
Deafness is one of the commonest causes of disability. According to the World Health Organisation, about 360 million people suffer from deafness in the world, and it is estimated that sixty percent of the causes of deafness may be preventable.
The majority of individuals that suffer from hearing loss are older than sixty-five years, and sub-Saharan Africa, Asia (South) and Pacific Asia are most affected.
What Are The Symptoms Of Deafness?
Deafness or hearing impairment presents as reduced or absent hearing in one or both ears. The degree of hearing loss may vary.
Complete or total deafness is a complete loss of hearing in both ears. This is a very severe disability that impedes the quality of life. The difficulty with communication is the most common complication. Psychological side-effects may follow, such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of social isolation.
In young children, deafness may present with delayed developmental milestones. Within the first four months, a child should respond to their parent's voice or move at sounds. From four to nine months a child should smile, coo or babble. Basic sounds such as "ma-ma" or "da-da” should be present at around 15 months. If a child is not showing these typical milestones, it may raise the alarm to the possibility of hearing impairment and should be investigated.
What Are The Causes Of Deafness?
The causes of deafness are plentiful. Deafness may be either acquired or congenital (present from birth). The causes may have a genetic component or may be due to environmental factors
Causes of congenital deafness include:
- Maternal illness during pregnancy e.g. Rubella infection (German measles)
- Use of medications not indicated in pregnancy, e.g., aminoglycosides and anti-malaria materials
- Complications during the birth or perinatal period, such as low birth weight, lack of oxygen during labour or birth (foetal asphyxia or foetal distress), hypoglycaemia after birth, neonatal jaundice.
- Acquired causes may occur at any period from infancy to late adulthood. These include:
- Exposure to loud noise is the commonest cause of acquired hearing loss. This may be either progressive, acquired noise exposure over the lifetime, or sudden noise e.g. loud explosion.
- Trauma to the ear drums or head injuries/ traumatic brain injuries.
- Recurrent middle ear infections (Otitis Media).
- Complications of viral infections such as rubella, mumps or measles
- Medications that are ototoxic (toxic to the ear) such as aminoglycosides (amikacin) and diuretics (furosemide) may cause hearing loss.
- Malignancies or tumours in the brain or ear e.g. acoustic neuroma.
- Foreign body in the ear canal e.g. a small bead or stone.
- Earwax impaction
Presbycusis is age-related hearing loss due to degeneration of sensory nerve function.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Deafness?
- Follow the volume limits set on your iPod/phone/mp3 players. They are specially configured to prevent hearing damage due to high volumes.
- Consider buying noise-blocking headsets rather than in-ear earphones.
- If working in a noisy environment, wear protective hearing mutts or ear plugs.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Deafness?
- Do not expose yourself to extended periods of high sound volumes.
- Festivities may often mask the volume of sound. Do not stand next to large speakers to hear well. A ringing sound in ears after loud noise is indicative of noise affecting hearing.
What Are The Best Foods For Deafness?
- Although foods may not cure deafness, certain nutrient may contribute to preventing hearing loss, and prevent progression of hearing loss.
- Food high in omega 3 such as salmon, avocados, tuna, mackerel, flax seeds and chia seeds. Omega 3 assists in maintaining nerve and blood vessel function, as well as lowering inflammation in the body. Omega 3 may help in reducing age-related hearing loss
- Vitamin D affects hearing in the same way as omega 3. Foods high in vitamin D include mushrooms and micro algae (although sunlight is our best source)
- Alpha lipoic acid is found in butternut and broccoli. It assists in maintain auditory nerve function
- Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E and C. They are found in almonds, spinach and kale (Vit E) as well as papayas, strawberries, oranges and melons (Vit C)
- Zinc helps prevent sensory hearing loss. Found in oysters, grass-fed beef, sesame seeds and almonds
- Magnesium lowers inflammation and improves neural function. High Mg is found in pumpkin seeds, almonds, leafy green vegetables
What Are The Worst Foods For Deafness?
- There are no specific foods that have been found to cause deafness, however chronic inflammation of the body is linked to hearing loss. Foods that promote inflammation should thus be avoided.
- These include processed foods, unrefined carbohydrates, and foods high in unsaturated fatty acids. Sugar and artificial sweeteners must also be excluded from your diet.
What Are The Medicines For Deafness?
Deafness and hearing impairments are treated with auditory devices. Hearing aids are commonly used devices in deafness. Although hearing aids do not cure deafness, they do assist in augmenting hearing, thereby improving the quality of life. Hearing aids are adjusted to each individual's type of hearing loss, to ensure optimal treatment.
Cochlear implants can be used to severe hearing loss that does not improve with hearing aids. The implant assists by converting external sounds to electrical impulses that are sent to the auditory nerve.
Surgical procedures may be indicated e.g. ruptured tympanic membrane repairs or rinsing out of impacted cerumen.
What Are The Tips To Manage Deafness?
A large number of hearing impairments can be prevented. Earlier treatment in hearing loss has also shown better outcomes. This is especially important in childhood, as the prompt intervention in the developing brain may prevent severe disability.