Causes of Deafness
Maintaining one’s sense of hearing is often considered to be essential for optimal communication. Unfortunately, some estimates suggest that there may be as many as 30 million people in the world who are either deaf or suffer from some type of hearing loss. Though deafness is often associated with old age, it can also be caused by illness, injury, or congenital defect. In most cases, pinpointing the cause of deafness is an essential step in ensuring appropriate treatment and care. Individuals who are interested in learning more about hearing loss and deafness may want to consult with their primary care physician or medical team.
Many experts agree that congenital defects are one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Typically, these defects occur as a result of chromosomal abnormality. While there are a number of congenital conditions that have been linked to hearing loss, the most common include Down Syndrome, Alport Syndrome, and Crouzon Syndrome. Unfortunately, these conditions may also be linked to other chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, blindness, and cranial disfigurement.
One can also become deaf as a result of an infection. Ear infections—or otitis media—typically occur as a result of fluid build-up within the middle ear. While ear infections can affect individuals of any age, they are most prevalent in children under the age of 10 years. In some cases, the hearing loss associated with ear infections is temporary, and will resolve on its own. Ear infections that are especially severe, or those which recur on a regular basis, tend to lead to chronic, long-term hearing loss.
In some cases, the use of medications can lead to hearing loss. Medications that have been associated with hearing loss are typically classified as ototoxics, and include items such as aspirin, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, and some antibiotics. As with infections, the discontinuation of these medications can sometimes lead to reversals in hearing loss. Individuals who have been encouraged to take a particular ototoxic medication for an extended period of time may want to weigh the benefits of the drugs against the drawbacks associated with long-term hearing loss. In some cases, there may be another product that can be used in place of the ototoxin.
Many people become deaf as a result of aging. While the inability to distinguish between various sounds most often begins in the sixth decade of life, it can start when individuals are in their twenties. For aging individuals who are becoming deaf, education can be a lifesaver. Deaf education often focuses on the use of other senses to obtain information about the environment and/or surroundings. In addition, deaf education may provide individuals who are hard-of-hearing with the opportunity to learn from other deaf people who are in their shoes.
Living with Hearing Loss
For some individuals, losing one’s sense of hearing may feel like the end of the world. Some research suggests that deaf people often suffer from higher rates of depression due to the inability to communicate with friends and loved ones. Deaf people who are feeling sad or blue are often encouraged to take part in their local deaf community. Individuals who are interested in learning more about the deaf community in their city or state should consult with their health care provider. Social workers, nurses, and psychologists may also be able to provide some guidance for individuals interested in entering the deaf community.
Understanding the intricacies of deaf culture can also be beneficial for individuals who have developed hearing loss. Traditionally, deaf culture refers to the beliefs, behaviors, and values associated with individuals who are hard of hearing or who rely on sign language as a primary means of communication. It is important to remember that deaf culture may vary quite dramatically from state to state or region to region. For many people, gaining a better understanding of the deaf culture is essential in accepting hearing loss.