by Dr. Jeyanthi Kulasegarah-Consultant Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Interest in Otology and Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology
1.What are the factors or habits that are affecting the hearing of young adults?
Teenage hearing loss is on the rise, with recent studies indicating 1 in 5 teenagers demonstrating at least a slight hearing loss. This increase since the early 1990s is due to the frequent use of earphones bundled to smartphones and portable music players. Teenagers are also more likely to engage in risky hearing activities, such as loud video games, mp3 players cranked to full volume, concerts, nightclubs, sporting events, movie theaters and surround-sound entertainment systems that delivers an unprecedented assault on the hearing organ. Even more worrying is that these teenagers are aware of the risks, yet choose not to protect their hearing. Apart from noise-induced hearing loss, the other causes of hearing loss include:
2. Are there any possibilities of reversing or curing hearing loss?
The hearing organ, which is shaped like a snail, is also called the cochlear. We are born with about 15,000 hair cells inside the cochlear. (This number is extremely low when compared to the millions of photoreceptors in the retina of the eye or the smell receptors in the nose!) Sound vibrations cause these hair cells to sway, resulting in activation of electrical signals that are sent to the brain through the hearing nerve. The brain then tells you that you are hearing a sound and what the sound is. Unlike skin, or other cell types in our body, damaged hair cells do not regenerate or restore. A loud sound can permanently bend or physically shear a fragile hair cell, causing perpetual loss of function. Scientists are yet to discover a product that can reverse or cure hearing loss by hair cell regeneration.
3.How to identify if I or the people around me are suffering from deteriorating hearing?
Parents may find it hard to identify whether their teen is having difficulty hearing based solely on their behavior, as the signs often match the ‘typical’ teenage stereotypes. There are certain behaviours that should flag your concern if a pattern forms:
4.How can young adults protect themselves from hearing loss?
We only have one set of ears and it is important that we protect our children from an increasingly noisy world. Educating our children from an early age about the risks of unsafe listening practices can save them from significant and permanent hearing loss later in life. These are a few simple measures to modify their listening behaviour:
5.Single-sided deafness (SSD) has been recognised as a disability in Malaysia, please explain more about SSD?
In 2019, the Social Welfare Department of Malaysia has included single sided deafness (SSD) or profound unilateral hearing loss on its disability list. So what is SSD? Hearing loss in one ear is known are unilateral hearing loss. The degree of hearing loss can vary from mild, moderate, severe to profound hearing loss. In general, “single-sided deafness” refers to profound hearing loss in one ear, with normal hearing in the other ear. We were designed to have two ears for a reason – the brain uses both ears to pinpoint the location of a sound, and to improve hearing quality and range. Losing hearing in one ear presents particular challenges like:
6.Victims of hearing loss do go through physical and emotional challenges. As concerned family and friends how can we help them?
When you talk with a hearing impaired person, the following tips might be helpful:
7.Where and how can young adults that are suffering from hearing loss get help/aid?
Most young adults put off getting diagnosed and treated for hearing loss. The first step towards helping young adults with hearing loss is to get them to do a hearing test by an audiologist. When hearing loss is diagnosed, it can be very overwhelming. The next step is for them to learn more about the condition and to talk to a Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor with any questions or concerns that they may have. Family support groups is another way to connect with others who have had similar experiences to get help with how to cope day-to-day, find solutions and ways to obtain services. Depending on the severity and cause of hearing loss, it can be treated with some of the following options: