Deafness is a problem that can vary in degrees of severity and is not age related. Whilst it is true that as we get older our sensory systems can deteriorate, sight and hearing being two obvious examples, deafness can be caused by many factors.
Some children unfortunately are born deaf due to problems evolving during the formation process of the hearing mechanism whist in the womb. A link has been suggested between the mother contracting German Measles during pregnancy and these inner ear malformations.
Hearing is dependent on three factors. The first is a healthy and intact eardrum, which is a sensitive membrane that stretches across the ear canal and will vibrate when sound waves hit it. The second is the tiny bones in the ear that conduct the sound waves or vibrations. The third is the nerves, which carry the impulses from the cochlea, the part of the ear which is sensitive to the sound vibrations, to the brain. Any problem with each or all of these three components can lead to temporary or permanent deafness e.g. a large wax deposit in front of the eardrum will reduce the ability for sound waves to travel to the membrane itself. This form of deafness is called conductive deafness, as there will be a loss in the capacity for the sound waves to be conducted to the bones in the ear.
On the other hand, damage to the tiny nerves by infections such as mumps or shingles can lead to permanent deafness, and is classified as sensor-neural deafness. The tiny nerves can also be affected by a poor blood supply which can sometimes happens as part of the ageing process.
Treatment is always dependent on the cause behind the deafness. The ears are extremely delicate and sensitive parts of the body and care should always be taken when cleaning around their opening, and on no account place any substance in the ear canal unless advised by your doctor to do so.
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