Do you know if you have a hearing loss? Permanent hearing loss can occur in as little as 15 minutes with exposure to certain sounds, and almost instantly with unprotected exposure to any sounds above 90 decibels. Once permanent hearing damage occurs, it cannot be reversed. Hearing loss can go undetected for many years, as people are not always aware of it. Seeing a spouse or loved one suffer with hearing loss can be frustrating and heart breaking; it is often family members or friends that are the first to recognise that a hearing loss is present in an individual.
Hearing loss is typically a gradual process that affects certain listening frequencies more than it affects others. But hearing loss is extremely complicated and every loss is individual, every solution unique. Many hearing problems can be easily treated or resolved by a Hearing Healthcare Professional. However, hearing loss can be more difficult to treat if left neglected or mismanaged. The sooner an individual seeks treatment for hearing problems, the better we can be at slowing the negative effects it can cause.
Losing your hearing is a very emotional experience, and the impact it can have on psychological health shouldn’t be underestimated. As well as loneliness, and frustration, it can lead to outbursts of anger, depression, and loss of self-confidence.
As an adult, you might find communicating with loved-ones and colleagues increasingly challenging, and constantly trying to listen can be really fatiguing. You might pass up on social invitations when you know you are going to be in a noisy environment, and you may even go through a kind of grieving when you find your hearing declining.
Good hearing is vital for a child’s development, and an inability to hear may make it difficult for children to interact with family members and other children. They may feel very frustrated when they try to communicate, and poor hearing may lead to poor speech development.
Hearing loss is common in the UK, affecting about 1 in 7 people, it can be present from birth or acquired later in life. If you have a family history of hearing loss, have been exposed to loud noise, take medication, have diabetes, circulation or heart problems then you are at a greater risk. Annual check-ups are important, and should you have any concerns about your hearing it is important to book in for a hearing test immediately.
It’s important to understand that a great deal can be done to help you, or a family member who has hearing loss. Many of our patients tell us that they have felt completely transformed by the help we have given them.
Types of hearing loss
There are three types of hearing loss; conductive, sensorineural and mixed.
Conductive hearing loss
This means that sound from the external world is obstructed from reaching the inner ear. If there is a blockage in the ear canal (e.g. earwax or infection that is causing swelling of the ear canal), then sound is impeded from reaching the ear drum. In addition, if you have a problem with your eardrum (such as a perforation), or fluid in your middle ear because of a cold or sinus problem, sound cannot easily reach the inner ear. Very occasionally, the problem may be a benign tumour, or otosclerosis, which is an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear, which prevents the normal movement of the ossicle bones in their role of transmitting sound to the inner ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss
This is the most common cause of hearing loss, and it occurs as a result of problems in the inner ear. The inner ear contains the vestibular system, which helps us to balance, and the cochlea, which works in conjunction with the auditory nerve to transmit sound to the brain. The cochlea contains hair cells transform the mechanical sound energy into electrical energy that is carried along the auditory nerve. There are different hair cells that collect different sound frequencies.
The hair cells are sometimes abnormal from birth, but typically they become damaged as we age. Infection and ‘ototoxic’ drugs can damage the cells, but so can prolonged exposure to loud sound, or a one-off sound over 130 decibels, such as a bomb blast. The cochlear nerve is sometimes to blame, and it may be part of a neurological disorder such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or Friedreich’s ataxia.
Mixed hearing loss
This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and there can be many causes for it, including head trauma, ear infections, tumours, excessive noise and birth conditions.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss:
- Muffled hearing
- Require frequent repetition of speech
- Difficulty understanding what other people are saying, especially within background noise or competing voices
- Ability to hear someone speaking, but not able to distinguish specific words
- Higher volume when listening to the television or radio
- Anxiety; avoiding conversation and social interaction as hearing becomes more difficult
- Depression; many adults may be depressed because of how hearing loss affects their social life
- Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ears (Tinnitus)
5 Steps to Better Hearing:
- Have your hearing checked regularly. If a problem is suspected, seek help from a Hearing Healthcare Professional.
- Learn all you can about your hearing problem. Find out about your particular hearing loss and work with a hearing professional to determine the best solution for you.
- Keep a positive attitude whilst you seek help. Much of your success with your hearing aid will depend on your attitude, your desire to learn, and a determination to increase your ability to hear.
- Set realistic expectations. Hearing aids will improve your hearing and quality of life but cannot restore your hearing fully.
- Practice, time and patience. The road to hearing again can be challenging. It’s an investment, where benefit will be realised usually around 45 days. Remember, the more you wear your hearing aids, the better your experience will be.
Many people know that they have hearing difficulties but wait for years to do something about it. Don’t delay. Book in for an appointment and find out how we can help you today.