The Science of Hearing and Balance

Will I go completely deaf?

com def1Question: I have developed some hearing loss. Does that mean that my hearing loss will progress and I will eventually go completely deaf?

Answer: The fear of loosing one’s hearing is a prospect that most of use would find uncomfortable and even depressing. In fact, the development of any physical handicap can cause use to grieve. However, to avoid becoming overly concerned about going totally deaf if you have some hearing loss, all we need to do is to look at the statistics on those in the US with severe to profound deafness. The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders reports that 500,000 to 750,000 Americans fall in this category out of a total of 28 million with hearing loss. Significant deafness accounts for only 3% of the total hearing loss population and total deafness accounts for even less than a third of this group.

The prospect of obtaining a severe or profound hearing loss is remote for most patients. However, there are a few reasons why someone might loose all or the majority of their hearing in one or both ears. The primary causes of significant deafness include viruses that attack the inner ear, severe bacterial infections such as meningitis, scarlet fever, or syphilis, autoimmune disease, skull fracture from head trauma, an inner ear stroke, tumors, genetics, and medical complications. Contrary to popular beliefs, noise exposure rarely produces such a significant loss unless there is a blast accident, and aging is even less significant. The fact that hearing loss rarely reaches severe to profound amounts is comforting for most of us. Fortunately, for those that are deafened, the latest cochlear implant models are a marvelous advancement in hearing and are universally recommended. For those with severe hearing loss, modern hearing aid technology provides discrete and controlled sound processing that is unsurpassed in the history of amplification.

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