Although we are not all the same when it comes to our hearing, we are all affected, regardless of age, regardless of hearing loss.
Untreated hearing loss has a significant impact on family, social and professional life, as well as on the state of health of those affected. It decreases the ability of people with hearing loss to communicate and impedes language acquisition. The social and economic consequences of this major difficulty are significant. It requires early detection and medical follow-up.
Hearing Screening and medical follow-up
Hearing health monitoring starts at birth. In France, hearing tests have been offered at every neonatal unit since 2014. This enables doctors to detect problems from the earliest age, prevent hearing loss and monitor hearing health.
In later life, there are several mobile applications and services to monitor your hearing, such as our Höra hearing test (available only in France). However, these tests do not substitute for a consultation with an ENT doctor, which is essential in case of hearing doubts or discomfort.
If hearing loss is detected, two types of treatment are offered:
- In case of conductive hearing loss, a tympanic graft or a reconstruction of the sound transmission system can be considered,
- When the hearing loss is sensorineural, hearing aids or cochlear implants are used if sound amplification is insufficient. These implants consist of electrodes placed in the inner ear.
Conductive deafness is due to an alteration of the tympano-ossicular chain. Sounds reach the inner ear, attenuated and less loud.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a lesion in the cochlea. This makes the ear less sensitive. Most often, it is the sensitivity to high frequencies that is the most affected.
Protecting hearing health
Screening is part of a three-pronged approach to prevention. Primary prevention is aimed at reducing the possible sources of hearing impairment. Secondary prevention involves screening for hearing loss, if possible before any symptoms appear. Meanwhile, tertiary prevention focuses on limiting the medical and social consequences of deafness; for example, through hearing aids.
We are all different when it comes to reacting to auditory stress. The sound waves from loud, sudden noises (gunshots, car horns, etc.) can damage the hair cells that are responsible for linking sounds with the brain. The same is true of chronic exposure to disruptive noise (cars, building work, etc.), which accelerates a decline in hearing.
Hair cells are regenerated in animals like reptiles and birds,but never in humans, so it is important to protect them.
A number of systems are in place to monitor noise pollution.
- For example, in France, specialized websites enable people to choose restaurants by their noise level, while noise readings are taken in schools located near busy roads and at factories, where the amount of time workers are exposed to noise is also monitored,
- In addition, a number of laws limit the noise made by motorcycles (75-80 dB), nightclubs (95 dB), concerts (105 dB) and MP3 personal music devices (100 dB). However, these limitations are insufficient, given that hearing can be damaged by exposure to as little as 85 dB,
- To avoid hearing loss, it is important to take frequent breaks from exposure to loud noise, by moving away from the source,
- Acoustic earplugs can reduce the intensity of noise without altering the frequencies,
- Smartphone apps can also be used to measure noise in different environments. However, only a consultation with an ENT specialist can take into account the way we perceive noise.
The solution is not to avoid treatment, but rather to talk about it with your doctor, especially if there is a family history of deafness. Vaccines can prevent certain diseases that cause deafness, such as rubella (during pregnancy), mumps and meningitis.