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Hearing Loss

Hearing loss occurs when one or more parts of the ear doesn't work in the typical way. The part of the ear involved determines the type of hearing loss. 

Conductive hearing loss results from a problem in the outer ear or middle ear that prevents sounds from reaching the inner ear in the usual way.  


Most of the time conductive hearing loss is due to earwax blocking the ear canal or to fluid in the middle ear. This makes it harder for the eardrum and the middle ear bones to move properly or for sound vibrations to reach the inner ear. This causes a temporary conductive hearing loss until the ear is clear.  Your child might need to see a doctor to remove the wax or treat the middle ear fluid if it does not go away by itself within a short time.  


In most cases conductive hearing loss is temporary, however, it can be long-term or permanent. When the ear canal is absent or significantly narrow, sound is blocked from entering the ear. In other cases of structural conductive hearing loss the middle-ear bones may not be formed typically, which means that sound is not transmitted to the inner ear in the usual way. 


With all types of conductive hearing loss, once sounds are loud enough to reach the inner ear, the inner ear works in the usual way.

 

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or hearing nerve (auditory nerve) does not work properly. This type of hearing loss is considered permanent.


Usually, sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the cochlea are not working as they should. There are two types of these cells: outer hair cells and inner hair cells. The job of the outer hair cells is to make soft sounds louder inside the cochlea. The job of the inner hair cells is to convert movement of the fluid in the cochlea into electrical signals, which are then sent along the hearing nerve to the brain.


When hair cells are damaged or missing, sound is not transmitted properly to the hearing nerve. This results in hearing loss. Some children with sensorineural hearing loss can also have damage to the hearing nerve. The degree of hearing loss will depend on how much the hair cells and the hearing nerve are affected.


Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be corrected with medication or surgery.

 

See the BC Early Hearing Program parent brochure for information on Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD).

 

Hearing loss degree ranges from mild to severe and is determined by the decibel (dB) level of sounds your child is able to hear.  Children with hearing loss do not hear the quietest sounds, but they might hear the louder sounds. 


For example:​

Mild hearing loss (25-40 dB): Your child might have difficulty hearing faint or distant speech and have difficulty understanding conversation in groups or noisy places. Your child will likely be able to hear sounds at close distances and in quiet environments.


Severe hearing loss (70-90 dB): Your child will only hear very loud environmental sounds and will likely not be able to hear any speech sounds without the use of hearing aids or a cochlear implant.

 

Your audiologist will consider the type and degree of your child's hearing loss when explaining the test results and making follow-up recommendations.


When children are not able to hear all of the speech sounds clearly, this affects their language learning and communication.  There are many supports available for children with hearing loss so that communication can be optimized and frustration can be minimized.


Working closely with your child's audiologist and intervention team will help your child develop good early communication skills.

 

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SOURCE: Hearing Loss ( )
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