What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a reduction in how well you can hear; it can be sudden or gradual, temporary or permanent; it can mean hearing nothing at all, or that there are just certain sounds you struggle to hear.
What causes hearing loss?
The most common two types of hearing loss are:
This can happen when sounds are no longer able to pass freely to the inner ear. This can be due to a blockage of earwax or a foreign object in the ear; it can also be a result of a medical condition like an ear infection, or ruptured eardrum. Conductive hearing loss causes sounds to become quieter (though not usually distorted) and can often be treated and cured with medical management, or minor surgery.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny sensory hair cells in the ear are damaged or destroyed. Different people experience different levels of hearing loss dependant on the type and extent of the damage to these cells. Some people can hear most sounds but they appear muffled; some can hear in quiet but not in noise; some struggle to hear particular sounds; or some no sounds at all. This type of hearing loss is almost always permanent and, while it can’t be cured, it can often be treated with the use of a hearing aid. Two main causes of this type of loss are:
- Age related. As we get older the tiny hair cells in our ears are affected by gradual wear and tear. This means by the time most of us are 60 we're likely to experience sensorineural hearing loss (over 54% of UK adults over 60 do). Presbycusis is the term used to typically describe this loss.
- Exposure to noise. Being exposed to everyday noises, like loud music, power tools, or machinery at work can damage the hair cells in the inner ear and so affect your hearing. Sudden loud noises like gunfire can also have a damaging affect. If you're exposed to noise on a regular basis you should take action to protect your hearing.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Sounds seem muffled, or when people are talking it sounds like they’re mumbling. This is because often (especially in age-related hearing loss) the high frequencies (those that make up the consonants) are the first to be affected by sensorineural hearing loss; and it's these that give clarity to speech.
- Trouble hearing and understanding conversation especially in background noise like others talking or having the television or music on.
- Turning the television or radio to a higher volume than you used to.
If you think you may have a hearing loss our advice would be to get it checked out with a free hearing test at Boots Hearingcare. Book a free appointment online or call us on