Statistics have shown that by the year 2050, one in every 10 people will have a hearing disability, that’s almost 750 million people worldwide. The deaf make up the minority of the world population today. They experience the world in a different way from the rest of us. They speak a different language and have limited opportunities in terms of education and job opportunities.
What causes deafness? In children born without the ability to hear genetics have been shown to be the cause. This can occur when one parent carries an abnormal gene which dominates over the normal gene leading to deafness. It could also be inheritance of two abnormal genes from both parents. The abnormal gene could also be X linked i.e. the mother is the carrier of the abnormal gene. This is the rarest genetic cause of deafness.
Other causes and risk factors of deafness include:
- Premature birth
- Viral infections
- Birth injuries
- Anoxia/absence of oxygen supply to body organs
- Occupational noises and exposure to loud noises.
- Gradual buildup of ear wax
Anatomically the ear is divided into three portions; the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear captures the sound waves, the inner ear amplifies the sound waves and the inner ear translates the amplified sound into electrical signals that are interpreted by the brain.
Hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. Conductive hearing loss involves the outer and middle portion of the ear while sensorineural involves the inner ear. Hearing loss can present as difficulty understanding words against background noises or having to turn up the volume of your TV to follow your favorite show.
Let’s talk diagnostic and treatment options. With advancements in technology, you can now download a hearing test app on your phone and perform the tests without a doctor. As with every other condition, the process of diagnosis begins with the patient’s history and a physical exam. A tuning fork test and an audiometry are performed to determine the specific type of hearing loss. In cases of viral infections general tests are done.
Wax buildup is a reversible cause of hearing loss where the wax blockage is removed. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are other treatment options adopted depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Sometimes surgical intervention is needed when there are abnormalities in the middle ear components.
Some people experience low self-esteem and self-confidence due to this condition. Some studies have even linked deafness to increased risk of depression. This is why the deaf culture is there. A community of this minority group to offer support to one another and collaborate in breaking stigmas. We should also adopt the deaf culture in order to let the deaf feel more than just a section of the disabled in the society. Finally don’t ignore the signs, go have your ears checked or download the testing app and have the tests done by a qualified practitioner.