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WHAT IS HEARING LOSS?

Hearing loss can be defined as the reduced ability to hear sounds in the same way as other people, because sound signals are not reaching the brain.

There are two main types of hearing loss;

  • Sensorineural hearing loss – This is the most common form and occurs when hair or auditory nerve cells within the inner ear are damaged, either as a result of injury, advanced age, excessive loud noise exposure, viral or bacterial infections (such as measles, mumps or meningitis), drugs that damage the inner ear (such as the antibiotic gentamicin), or diabetes.

  • Conductive hearing loss – This type of hearing loss occurs typically as a result of obstruction in the outer or middle ear, preventing sounds passing from the outer ear into the inner ear, most often as a result of earwax, infection, or glue ear (fluid build-up). Depending on the cause, this can be treated surgically or with medication.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEARING LOSS

It isn’t always easy to immediately identify a loss of hearing, however common signs may include;

  • Difficulty hearing others speak

  • Asking people to repeat themselves

  • Listening to radio or watching TV with very loud volumes.

 

MANAGING HEARING LOSS

The management of hearing loss is dependent on the cause and severity.

In cases of conductive hearing loss, this may resolve on its own, although surgical techniques may be employed to clear wax +/- infection in the outer ear, or to fix the ear drum or bones of hearing.

With sensorineural hearing loss, the options available to improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate include:

  • Digital hearing aids

  • Cochlear implants – for people who find hearing aids aren't powerful enough

  • Lip reading and/or sign language – such as British Sign Language (BSL)

 

WHEN TO SEEK HELP FOR HEARING LOSS

It is recommended that help should be sought from a specialist when the following occur;

  • A sudden loss of hearing (often requires urgent management within 48 hours)

  • Hearing loss in one ear

  • When taking medications that are toxic to the ears

  • When you notice a gradual deterioration of hearing