Hearing impairment : its methods of detection
Hearing impairment, deafness, or hearing loss refers to the total or partial inability to hear sounds.Symptoms may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. A patient with a mild hearing impairment may have problems understanding speech, especially if there is a lot of noise around, while those with moderate deafness may need a hearing aid.Some people are severely deaf and rely on lip-reading to communicate with others. People who are profoundly deaf can hear nothing at all and can find themselves totally reliant on lip-reading or sign language.
It is important to distinguish between the different levels of hearing loss.
Hearing loss: This is a reduced ability to hear sounds in the same way as other people.
Deafness: This occurs when a person cannot understand speech through hearing, even when sound is amplified.
Profound deafness: This refers to a total lack of hearing. An individual with profound deafness is unable to detect sound at all.
The severity of hearing impairment is categorized by how much louder volumes need to be set at before they can detect a sound.
Some people define profoundly deaf and totally deaf in the same way, while others say that a diagnosis of profound deafness is the end of the hearing spectrum.
Tests to diagnose hearing loss may include:
- Physical exam. Your doctor will look in your ear for possible causes of your hearing loss, such as earwax or inflammation from an infection. Your doctor will also look for any structural causes of your hearing problems.
- General screening tests. Your doctor may use the whisper test, asking you to cover one ear at a time to see how well you hear words spoken at various volumes and how you respond to other sounds. Its accuracy can be limited.
- App-based hearing tests. Mobile apps are available that you can use by yourself on your tablet to screen for moderate hearing loss.
- Tuning fork tests. Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that produce sounds when struck. Simple tests with tuning forks can help your doctor detect hearing loss. This evaluation may also reveal where in your ear the damage has occurred.
- Audiometer tests. During these more-thorough tests conducted by an audiologist, you wear earphones and hear sounds and words directed to each ear. Each tone is repeated at faint levels to find the quietest sound you can hear.