World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness on the prevention of deafness and hearing loss and to promote ear and hearing care across the world.
The theme for 2021 is
Hearing Care for ALL!
Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate.
Hearing is much more than just sound; it is about inclusion, engagement, belonging and connection to people and the world around us. Good hearing health is vital in all stages to live a fulfilling life.
Hearing begins before birth at 20 weeks of gestation. It is the second sense to develop in utero, the first one being touch. Hearing is important for a child to learn spoken language, perform academically and engage socially.
New-born screening helps identify hearing loss early. This is done by otoacousticemission (OAE) test, which is a
simple test that can be done within 24 hours of birth. It is vital in neonates with high-risk factors such as the family
history of hearing loss, maternal viral infections during pregnancy,
congenital birth defects, hyperbilirubinemia
and low birth weight. Early diagnosis and intervention with amplification devices such as hearing aids and cochlear
implant along with speech and language rehabilitation helps such children catch up to and equal other children
developmentally by the age of 3 years.
Mechanism of Hearing
For hearing to be normal, all parts of the mechanism are important starting from the outer ear which collects the sound waves and helps detect the direction of the sound to the nerve pathway to the brain. Hearing loss is classified as conductive, sensorineural, or mixed depending on the area of pathology.
Treatment of hearing loss also depends on the cause. It can be treated by simple drops and cleaning for wax accumulation. Surgery may be required for either draining the middle ear fluids or repairing the perforated ear drum. Recent advances in surgical instrumentation allow for performing these surgeries endoscopically and as day care procedures. For patients with sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids are helpful and in severe cases, cochlear implants are ideal.
During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, schooling and working from home have increased the use of personal listening devices. Prolonged usage of earphones and headphones at a loud volume can cause local injury to the skin of the ear and also to the hair cells of theinner ear resulting in sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss usually is gradual and the affected person is often unaware. Family members start noticing signs such as fall in grades in children, not responding to call or asking to repeat words, need to turn up the volume of radio or TV and withdrawal from the social setting. Hearing loss in the elderly is closely linked to balance and dementia.
More than 50% of all hearing loss is preventable and the majority of the rest treatable by an early and effective intervention.
“AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE.”
Some preventive measures to maintain good hearing health:
Avoid using hearing devices at high volume and for a prolonged length of time. It is best to use good quality head phones at below 60% of maximum volume for not more than 60 minutes and rest for atleast 10 minutes before start using again (-60% volume – 60 minutes – 600 seconds rest).
Avoid using cell phones directly for long periods of time and do not keep them near your head at night while sleeping.
Avoid using any foreign objects in your ear like buds; they push the wax in and can cause injury to the ear.
Avoid medication that can be harmful to the ear- ototoxic medication.
Use adequate ear protection if working in a noisy environment.
Seek immediate attention if there is any discharge from the ear and follow the medication prescribed.
Keep conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, allergies and endocrine problems well controlled as systemic conditions if uncontrolled adversely affect the hearing.
Take adequate precautions to prevent injury to the ear during driving and recreational activities. Injury to the ear can sometimes result in traumatic perforation of the ear drum or dislocation of the ossicles resulting in hearing loss.
If there is sudden one-sided hearing loss or hearing loss associated with extra sounds in the ear and imbalance,
ENT specialist immediately.
Regular ear check-up and audiological evaluation like eye check-up helps identify early ear and hearing problems which can be easily managed if detected early.
No hearing loss is insignificant. Any hearing loss has some impact on some aspects of life. Good hearing gives benefit of better social interaction, memory and learning hence leading to a better quality of life.