There are many options for treatment of hearing loss. The best option depends on the individuals requirement. It is guided by the type of hearing loss, the severity of hearing loss and also factor like the age of the affected individual.
Why should we treat Hearing loss
Hearing loss is a significant disability. However, it is an invisible disability. The disability shows only when an attempt is made to communicate with the afflicted individual. Very often even the person affected with hearing impairment lives in denial and refuses any attempt to rehabilitate them.
Studies show that the disability results in significant physical and psychological problems. There is an increased risk of trips and falls. As the person is unable to communicate effectively with the vast majority of society, they tend to become withdrawn and socially isolated. Often people slip into anxiety disorder or depression. In the elderly the hearing impairment can also cause dementia and a decline in their functioning. In young adults, studies show that the average salaries for hearing impaired people is lower than the salaries of people with normal hearing. Also there is a cost associated with treating the hearing impairment. This combination of lower potential for earning and high medical costs can add to the financial burden of the family.
Treatment options for hearing loss
- Medical options: Hearing impairment may be purely conductive in nature due to impacted wax or fluid or infection in the middle ear. This can be easily treated. A simple visit to the ENT doctor may be adequate in reversing the hearing impairment.
- Hearing Aids: These devices can work for sensori-neural deafness (deafness due to problems in the hair cells in the cochlea). Hearing aids amplify sounds. The amplified sounds may be picked up by the damaged hair cells. They therefore work by improving hearing ability but do not improve the hearing ability. They can be very effective in rehabilitating the deaf.
- Cochlear Implants: This is a surgical process. In this surgery an electrode is inserted into the cochlea. The sound waves are picked up by the electrodes and they send the signals to the nerve cells which carry the signals to the brain. Cochlear implants are a viable option in people with profound hearing loss who do not have any improvement with hearing aids. It is also the best option for children who are born with profound deafness. Following surgery, there is need for a long term rehabilitation with a speech therapist to train the child to use the information provided by the cochlear implant. The surgery is most effective if done early. In a child who is born deaf, the ideal age of surgery should be under 2 years.