Hearing Impairment

Means: You can't hear anything. :O

What Is Hearing Impairment?

Hearing impairment occurs when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear.

What Causes Hearing Impairment?

The most common cause of conductive hearing loss in kids and teens is otitis, media which is the medical term for an ear infection that affects the middle ear. Ear infections cause a buildup of fluid or pus behind the eardrum, which can block the transmission of sound. Even after the infection gets better, fluid might stay in the middle ear for weeks or even months, causing difficulty hearing.

  • Genetic disorders. Some genetic (inherited) disorders interfere with the proper development of the inner ear and/or the auditory nerve.
  • Injuries to the ear or head. Injuries such as a skull fracture can cause hearing loss.
  • Complications during pregnancy or birth. Some babies are born with hearing impairment due to infections or illnesses that the mother had while she was pregnant, which can interfere with the development of the inner ear. Premature babies are also at higher risk for hearing impairment.

How Do Doctors Diagnose It?

Hearing loss can be difficult to diagnose in infants and babies because they haven't yet developed communication skills. All babies are screened before they leave the hospital to see if they have hearing loss. Sometimes parents may begin to notice that the baby doesn't respond to loud noises or to the sound of voices.

Certain symptoms in teens should prompt a trip to the doctor. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, you should let your parents or doctor know if:

  • You feel that people mumble or that their speech is not clear, or you hear only parts of conversations when people are talking.
  • You often ask people to repeat what they said.
  • Friends or family tell you that you don't seem to hear very well.
  • You don't laugh at jokes because you miss too much of the story.
  • You need to ask others about the details of a class or meeting you attended.
  • People say that you play music or your TV too loudly.
  • You can't hear the doorbell or telephone.

The doctor will do an ear exam and, if necessary, refer someone with these symptoms to an audiologist, a health professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing problems. The audiologist will do various hearing tests that can help detect where the problem might be. For example, to test the function of the inner ear, the audiologist can put a special device behind the ear that transmits tones directly there. This helps to distinguish between inner ear and middle or outer ear problems. For other tests, the audiologist will use a small probe place at the entrance of the ear canal and record tiny responses from the cochlea.

A person may also need to see an , a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat problems.

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