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Partial or total inability to hear. In conduction deafness, the passage of sound vibrations through the ear is interrupted. The obstacle may be earwax, a ruptured eardrum, or stapes fixation, which prevents the stapes bone from transmitting sound vibrations to the inner ear. In sensorineural deafness, a defect in the sensory cells of the inner ear (e.g., injury by excessive noise) or in the vestibulocochlear or eighth cranial nerves prevents the transmission of sound impulses to the auditory centre in the brain. Some deaf people are helped by hearing aids or cochlear implants; others can learn to communicate with sign language and/or lip reading.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on deafness, visit Britannica.com.