According to WHO, there are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss. Disabling hearing loss is defined as adults (15 years and older): hearing loss greater than 40 decibels (dB) in the better hearing ear; and Children (0 – 14 years of age): hearing loss greater than 30 dB in the better hearing ear.
International Week of the Deaf starts in the last week of September and ends on the last Sunday of the month. This last Sunday is known as World Day of Deaf. This day is celebrated to draw the attention of not only affected people and their family members but also to draw the attention of general people, politicians, and development authorities towards the achievements and challenges of the deaf community. We at Medicircle are conducting the World Day of Deaf Awareness Day Series to create awareness on the prevention and control of hearing impairment.
Dr. Sumit Mrig is a Principal Consultant & Head – ENT & Cochlear Implant Surgery, at Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital, in Delhi. He has done Treatment of deafness in the pediatric & adult population through cochlear implants, BAHA implants & bone bridge devices, Surgery for snoring & sleep apnea disorder and Treatment of vertigo disorders. He is one of the youngest Cochlear Implant Surgeons in India & Asia. He has become the 1st Indian surgeon to start an independent cochlear implant program in Africa.
Dr. Sumit speaks, “Generally people use anything to clean their ears like earwax, earbuds, etc. Ears are one of the sensory organs which makes you audible to the external environment. Using anything randomly to clean the ears can hurt its inner parts. There can be an injury to the soft lining or can hurt the eardrum. You should always seek the help of an ENT Specialist to get your ears clean. The expert can suction clean your ears. For removing ear wax, ear drops are there in the market. But this shouldn’t be done at home. Never try cleaning your ears by yourself, you will end up hurting your ears."
Bursting some myth, Dr. Sumit says, "It is not advisable to put any type of oil (mustard oil) in the ear as it can cause ear infections and accumulate dirt and wax. If there is a perforated eardrum then putting mustard oil might hurt even more.”
Ear discharge – Common ear problem with a sure shot treatment
Dr. Sumit explains, "Ear is divided into three parts – External ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Ear discharge can be a result of an infection in the external ear or middle ear, perforated eardrum, bone loss, or cholesteatoma. The tympanic membrane which is an intact membrane also called the eardrum, separates the outer ear from the middle ear. But if any infection or ruptures occur in this membrane, it exposes the external environment to the middle ear. Dirt, pollution, water anything may go inside this and take the form of discharge. Discharge can be foul-smelling also. Whenever the climate changes, patients having allergic symptoms, their infection often reaches ear from nose and throat and comes out as profuse discharge. In such a situation, one should always consult an ENT Specialist and get this treated. There are treatments and cures available for perforated eardrums.”
Noise-induced hearing loss
Dr. Sumit expresses, “Noise-induced hearing loss is rising steeply. In the current situation, many of us use Bluetooth devices or headphones. The noise of the internet, loud music, parties, traffic, construction sites can cause loud noise. Listening to high-volume sounds is one of the important reasons for hearing loss. There have been cases of hearing loss post COVID infection. Some of the symptoms of hearing loss are –
Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio.
Difficulty understanding words, especially while talking on phones.
If anyone has such symptoms, please visit an ENT specialist, get an audiometry test done. If it is diagnosed in time, hearing loss can be prevented. It can be cured with the timely use of drugs, hearing aids. All elders should have their hearing tested once a year and their ears should also be cleaned.”
Dr. Sumit describes, “Tinnitus is a noise that originates from the inner ear. The reason for this can be perforated eardrum, infection, or accumulation of fluid in the ear. This is the main symptom of sensory hearing loss which means the cochlear is damaged. If you are exposed to noise exposure above 85 dB for continuous 7-8 hours, you may suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus patients should stay away from noise pollution. This is a serious condition that requires early diagnosis for its treatment.
Many patients have sensitivity to loud sounds. Sensitivity to sound is a symptom of cochlear hearing loss. These patients should not listen to high-volume TV headphones, instrumental music. We give them earmuffs and earplugs to curb the noise. They should avoid going to places like drilling sites, discos.”
Congenital hearing loss
Dr. Sumit elaborates, “Every year 25,000-30,000 are born deaf and dumb as their cochlear doesn’t function properly. This is called cochlear hearing loss or congenital hearing loss. Reasons for congenital hearing loss are
Genetic - Genetic hearing loss can be present at birth or develop later in life. The genes that cause hearing loss can come from one or both parents. The recessive gene causes cochlear dysfunction. Infection in pregnancy - Toxoplasma or TORCH infection during pregnancy. This may be due to not taking pregnancy vaccines on time or consuming things that are contra-indicated in pregnancy.
Compared to acquired causes of hearing loss after birth due to cough, cold, viral fever, mumps, measles, rubella, ear discharges, infected blood transfusion, meningitis, the number of children with congenital hearing loss is very small. This way every year 1-1.5 lakh children lose hearing ability in India.”
Cochlear Implant for congenital hearing loss
Dr. Sumit adds, “Every year 5000-6000 cochlear implant surgeries are performed in India. Congenital deaf can be treated with a cochlear implant. Children can receive a cochlear implant beginning at 10-12 months of age. For a child hoping to receive a cochlear implant at this age, evaluations should start around 3-4 months of age. A congenitally deaf child should have cochlear implant surgery before 3 years old, earlier if possible.”
Diagnosing congenital hearing loss
Dr. Sumit voices, “Congenital hearing loss can be detected at birth with Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) tests. The OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) test checks part of the inner ear’s response to sound. The test is mostly done on infants and children who may not be able to respond to behavioral hearing tests because of their age. Early diagnosis is the key to a better cure.”
Preventing congenital hearing loss
Dr. Sumit says, “Pregnant ladies should take care of themselves, take proper precaution. In this way infections during pregnancy can be avoided. Genetic reasons can’t be changed but acquired causes of hearing loss during pregnancies can be controlled very well.”
(Edited by Renu Gupta)