Navigating silence: Life with severe to profound hearing loss 

Living with hearing loss poses unique challenges, whether diagnosed at birth or later in life. From communication difficulties to feelings of isolation and frustration, everyday tasks can become significantly challenging. Without early intervention, hearing loss can progress to severe or profound levels. However, there are ways to overcome these obstacles and improve quality of life, such as coping mechanisms or rehabilitation options like hearing aids. 

This blog explores the world of severe to profound hearing loss, shedding light on its complexities and offering strategies for navigating these challenges. We'll also introduce Signia's innovative Super Power hearing aid, Motion Charge&Go SP X, designed to make life easier for those living with these difficulties. 

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What exactly is severe to profound hearing loss?

The extent of hearing loss varies from person to person, depending on their hearing sensitivity and how long they've had the condition. This sensitivity or the hearing threshold is measured in decibels (dB), categorizing hearing into normal, mild, moderate, severe, or profound loss. 

Severe hearing loss is diagnosed when the threshold falls between 70 and 90 dB, while values above 90 dB indicate profound hearing loss.  

But what do these thresholds mean in real life? Let's break it down. 

Normal hearing 

You can hear every day sounds like birds chirping, a refrigerator's hum, or leaves rustling (up to 25 dB threshold). 

Mild to Moderate hearing loss 

It indicates difficulty hearing speech, but you can still catch conversational sounds or noises as loud as a vacuum cleaner (26-69 dB threshold). 

Severe hearing loss 

You are missing out on speech sounds but can still perceive louder noises like a piano or passing motorbike (70-90 dB threshold). 

Profound hearing loss 

It entails only hearing very loud sounds like a truck, drums, or a helicopter (above 90 dB threshold). 

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Common causes of hearing loss 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1.5 billion individuals worldwide experience some form of hearing issues, while 430 million have disabling hearing impairment. Hearing loss can happen at any age and can be caused by various factors described below. 

Noise pollution 

In our modern, tech-driven world, noise pollution is a leading cause of hearing impairment. If you are regularly exposed to loud sounds, especially through headphones during work or leisure, it can significantly increase your risk of hearing loss. Similarly, prolonged exposure to noisy environments like factories poses a serious threat of noise-induced hearing impairment. 

According to a recent press release by the British Medical Journal, video gamers are at risk of developing irreversible hearing damage and tinnitus. A study involving over 50,000 gamers revealed that the sound levels they are exposed to often exceed permissible levels or are very close to them. 

The researchers have also noted that gamers tend to listen to high intensity sounds for extended periods, which increases the risk of hearing impairment. Given the popularity of video games, greater public health efforts are needed to raise awareness about these potential hazards. 

Source : BMJ

Old age  

As we age, certain parts of our ears lose elasticity, which can lead to a loss of hair cells, resulting in hearing impairment. The likelihood of experiencing disabling hearing loss increases significantly with age, ranging from 15.4% for 60-year-olds to 58.2% for those over 90. Moreover, if left untreated, hearing loss can dramatically increase the risk of dementia among the elderly. 

Genetics

Approximately half of all cases of hearing loss have a hereditary component. While newborn screenings may detect genetic hearing loss in some cases, signs may manifest later in life. Understanding one's genetic risk of hearing loss can lead to early intervention strategies and personalized treatment plans. 

Ear infections and tumors 

Ear infections can cause fluid buildup in the middle ear, resulting in temporary or permanent hearing damage if left untreated. Similarly, certain ear tumors may not cause cancer but lead to hearing deficiency. Around 90% of people with such tumors experience hearing loss on the affected side. Early detection and intervention can lower the risk of these conditions on hearing health. 

Diseases and medications 

Numerous diseases can cause mild to profound hearing loss, including chickenpox, mumps, meningitis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, and Meniere's disease.  

Additionally, certain prescription drugs used to treat severe infections, cancers, and heart issues can also lead to hearing loss. Some medications that fall under this category are antibiotics, large doses of aspirin, and chemotherapy medications such as carboplatin and cisplatin. 

Ear wax

Our ears produce a waxy oil called cerumen, commonly known as earwax. Although it serves a protective function in the ear canal, excessive production can lead to blockages and hearing loss. Improper cleaning methods, such as cotton swabs, may exacerbate the issue by pushing wax further into the ear canal. Safe and effective earwax removal techniques can help prevent hearing impairment associated with wax buildup. 

Bonus reading material: Earwax Removal Tips 

Challenges of living with hearing loss 

Hearing loss can profoundly affect your physical and emotional well-being. Annually hearing loss leads to a global cost of $980 billion due to decreased productivity and social exclusion. 

Here are some common challenges you may face with hearing loss. 

Social gatherings 

You tend to rely on visual cues during conversations. This becomes challenging when you participate in group conversations, as it becomes difficult to distinguish speakers among multiple voices. This can lead to isolation and withdrawal from social gatherings, especially with severe to profound hearing loss. 

Noisy environments 

Public places such as restaurants and shopping malls can be challenging. The constant background noise makes it difficult to communicate with others amid the unwanted chatter. Thus, you may struggle to hear the high-clarity sounds of the person you are speaking with over competing noise. 

Subtle sounds or lack of visual cues 

When you have hearing loss in both ears, you may be unable to detect if someone is speaking softly without any visual cues. Moreover, with severe to profound hearing loss you usually depend on lip reading. This becomes impossible when the speaker is facing away, leading to missing out on the entire conversation. 

Long-range listening 

If you have hearing issues, you easily miss sounds that come from a faraway source, such as when someone speaks from the next room or a large hall. This is because the sound becomes quieter as it travels farther, making it more difficult to hear. 

Telephone conversations

You often struggle to follow phone conversations due to the absence of visual cues and overall loss of sound. However, with the help of a smart hearing aid that connects calls directly to the device, you can improve your ability to communicate over the phone. 

Alarms and alerts 

With hearing loss, you may miss sounds like phones, doorbells, and alarms, such as smoke detectors, when the source of the sound is far away. 

Struggles with mental health 

Dealing with the difficulties we discussed earlier can affect how you feel about yourself. You might start avoiding people because you worry about not hearing them right. Feeling left out like this can lead to loneliness and even make you feel depressed. 

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Strategies for navigating life with severe to profound hearing loss 

Seeking help early

If you notice any signs of hearing loss, it's best to talk to an audiologist or a hearing care professional right away. When left untreated, minor hearing inconveniences could progress to severe to profound hearing loss. 

Communication tips

  • Even with severe to profound hearing loss, there are ways to improve communication.
  • Let others know you rely on lip-reading so they can speak clearly and face you.
  • Ask for people's attention before they start talking. 
  • Don't hesitate to ask them to repeat or rephrase if you have trouble understanding. 
  • Try to reduce background noise by turning down the TV or radio. 
  • Stay calm and take deep breaths; being anxious can make communication harder. 

The Indian Sign Language (ISL) 

ISL is an official language in India with its own vocabulary and grammar. It's based on hand shapes and movements to convey words and ideas. It has different regional variations and consists of 33 hand poses, including 10 digits and 23 letters. The ISL portal offers a vast collection of signs to help communication.

Cochlear implants 

For individuals who experience severe hearing loss that cannot be resolved with hearing aids, cochlear implants can provide a solution. During this process, an electrode is inserted into the inner ear through surgery. This process also involves a processor (worn externally) that sits on the site of the implant. The implant works by bypassing the damaged inner hair cells and transmitting electrical signals to the brain, where these signals are interpreted as sounds. 

Hearing therapy 

Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) or Hearing therapy is an early intervention program designed for children with hearing impairment, as well as adults who have cochlear implants or hearing aids. This program is especially helpful for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss, as it teaches them how to listen and communicate through spoken language. If you are interested in seeking hearing therapy, you can reach out to an audiologist, a speech-language pathologist, or a speech educator specializing in AVT. 

Hearing aids 

Modern hearing aids are a highly effective and non-invasive solution for severe to profound hearing loss. Some are specially designed for this level of loss and are known as "Super Power" devices. It's crucial to consult a specialist to find the right fit and frequency for your needs, rather than opting for an over-the-counter device. An audiologist or hearing care professional can tailor a hearing aid to your unique requirements.  

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Motion Charge&Go SP X: A super power solution for severe to profound hearing loss 

Finding the best hearing aid for severe to profound hearing loss can be overwhelming. With this condition, you depend heavily on your hearing aids and are sensitive to their performance. Complex hearing loss cases require a Super Power hearing aid with Super Power features. 

The Signia Xperience platform with the Motion C&G SP device can be an excellent option for your power hearing needs. You can choose your own custom sound settings and find a preferred sound balance for the best performance. 

Motion C&G SP is the world’s first rechargeable SP device, with a wearing time of up to 61 hours. This ensures you can wear it throughout the day without worrying about running out of power. 

Learn more about Motion Charge&Go SP X

Thriving with severe to profound hearing loss 

Living with severe to profound hearing loss can be a tough road to navigate. It's understandable to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times, but it's important to remember that you are not alone. You have unique strengths and abilities that make you who you are, and there are people who care and want to support you.  

Pursuing your interests and goals, no matter how big or small, can be a source of empowerment and fulfillment. Remember to celebrate every achievement along the way and take pride in your progress. With confidence and awareness in your journey, you can overcome any obstacle that comes your way. 

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Shapnila Nath 
Content Marketer at WSA  
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