Hearing loss is a condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. However, determining at what point hearing loss becomes a disability is not always clear. In this article, we will examine the different types of hearing loss, legal and medical guidelines regarding hearing loss as a disability, the causes of hearing loss and deafness, the consequences of untreated hearing loss, and the World Health Organization’s response to hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three primary types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve, while conductive hearing loss occurs when there is an obstruction in the outer or middle ear. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both types.
Legal Guidelines on Hearing Loss as a Disability
In India, the Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995 recognizes "hearing impairment" as a disability. According to Section 2(i)(iv) of the Act, a "person with disability" is someone suffering from at least 40% of any disability, as certified by a medical authority. Therefore, individuals with hearing loss of 40% or more are considered disabled under the law. However, this legal definition does not indicate the extent of an individual’s hearing loss or how it affects their daily life. Medical guidelines must be followed to determine this.
Medical Guidelines on Hearing Loss as a Disability
The definition of hearing disabled, according to the PWD Act of 1995, is a person with a minimum of 60 dBHL of hearing impairment in the better ear in speech and conversation frequencies. A person with a hearing loss of 60 dBHL or more is considered hearing disabled under medical guidelines. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines disabling hearing loss as hearing loss greater than 35 decibels (dB) in the better hearing ear. Therefore, in India, someone with a hearing loss of 60 dB or more is considered disabled as per medical guidelines. However, it is important to note that hearing loss affects individuals differently, and the impact on daily life can vary depending on factors such as age, lifestyle, and environment.
Causes of Hearing Loss and Deafness
Hearing loss can be caused by various factors, including genetic causes, infections, exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and aging. These factors can have different impacts at various stages of life, with early childhood being a critical period for exposure to loud noise. Similarly, infections such as meningitis or measles can cause hearing loss in children.
The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss can have several consequences, including social isolation, depression, and decreased cognitive function. In addition, it can impact the individual’s ability to work, communicate, and perform daily tasks, leading to a lower quality of life.
The World Health Organization’s Response to Hearing Loss
The WHO recognises hearing loss as a public health issue, with over 5% of the world’s population—around 430 million people—affected by disabling hearing loss. The organisation has launched a global initiative, "Make Listening Safe," to prevent hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise. The WHO also emphasises the importance of early detection and treatment of hearing loss to prevent long-term consequences.
The Impact of Unaddressed Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life if left unaddressed. One of the most affected aspects of life is communication and speech, which can become difficult and lead to social isolation and depression. Hearing loss can also impact cognition, leading to difficulties in processing and understanding information. Education and employment opportunities may be limited, especially in developing countries where children with hearing loss and deafness often do not receive schooling.
Audiometry Test in Wagholi
If you are experiencing hearing loss, it is crucial to seek medical attention to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. An audiometry test is one way to assess hearing ability and identify hearing loss. Audiometry test in wagholi, you can take an audiometry test at a local clinic or hospital to evaluate your hearing and get appropriate treatment. Seeking help promptly can improve your quality of life.
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 80% of people with disabling hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries. To address this global health issue, WHO launched the World Report on Hearing in March 2021. The report provides a global overview of hearing loss and deafness and offers recommendations for governments, healthcare professionals, and other stakeholders to address this issue.
Hearing loss is considered a disability in India if it meets specific medical criteria. Legal protections and benefits are available to people with hearing loss under the PWD Act, but medical guidelines must also be followed to determine the extent of an individual’s hearing loss and its impact on their daily life. It is crucial to address hearing loss promptly to avoid its negative impact on an individual’s life. If you are concerned about your hearing, speak with your healthcare provider or consider getting an audiometry test, which is a hearing test that measures hearing ability in terms of the loudness and clarity of sounds. If you are in the Wagholi area, consider getting an Diagnostic centre wagholi to assess your hearing health.