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No-one should have to live with untreated hearing loss. And yet it’s estimated that in the UK alone, more than 40% of people over the age of 50 are currently experiencing some degree of impaired hearing. This figure rises to 71% in the over-70s group.

Second only to sight, hearing is one of our most important senses. If you feel like your hearing is declining, it’s bound to have a huge impact on your mental health, relationships and day-to-day life.

Schedule an appointment with the Boots Hearingcare team at your local store for convenient, expert help and support regarding hearing loss-related inquiries.

What are the causes of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be caused by several factors: exposure to loud noise, an infection or health condition, or it may simply be genetic. However, hearing loss is mostly age-related. It also happens gradually, which means you may not even notice at first.
woman with hearing loss at restaurant

What are the first signs of hearing loss?

Hearing loss usually develops gradually, over a prolonged period. Your brain is able to compensate for the things you aren’t hearing, so it can take a while for you to notice that you aren’t hearing as well as you used to. Often, your friends and family will be aware before you are.

Some initial indicators of hearing loss include:
  • TV volume being too loud for other members of your household.
  • Finding it difficult to keep up with conversations when there’s background noise.
  • Feeling like people are mumbling a lot – this may be especially problematic during phone calls, even when the room is quiet.
Unfortunately, even people who know they can’t hear as well as they used to tend to put off doing something about it. In fact, people wait an average of ten years before deciding to seek help with their hearing loss, and only 40% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually have them!

What happens when you have hearing loss?

For most people with hearing loss, higher frequencies are affected first. This means that sounds like f, s, p and t become more difficult to hear, which makes understanding speech trickier. In almost all cases, hearing loss is permanent, and it’s hard to predict how slowly or quickly it will develop.

Untreated hearing loss can have a huge impact on your everyday life. Social situations often become so tiring that you start to give up on them altogether. You may find you are tuning out of conversations or starting to withdraw completely, which means missing out on precious time with family and friends. With this in mind, it's easy to see why some recent studies have shown a link between untreated hearing loss and the onset of dementia.

Is there a cure for hearing loss?

Age-related is the most common type of hearing loss and there is currently no cure. However for most people, a hearing aid can help. You can read more about hearing aids here.

Why does age-related hearing loss happen?

Age-related hearing loss, which is technically called presbycusis, usually starts between the ages of 45 and 65. It can start earlier, or be made worse by things like regular exposure to loud noise. Age-related hearing loss usually affects both your ears. It’s caused by damage to the fine hair sensory receptor cells in your cochlea, which means that sound signals are less able to travel to your auditory nerve.
One-on-one meeting

Is hearing loss genetic?

Some forms of hearing loss are genetic, and caused by mutations in the genes that affect the development and function of your ear. Of the 30,000 genes in your body, about 500 can influence your hearing.
Hearing loss research is now trying to find out which gene is responsible for which type of hearing loss – one day, this might lead to a cure.

Can hearing loss be prevented?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a tried-and-tested way to stop age-related hearing loss. However, knowing a few tried and tested preventative measures can make living with hearing loss much easier.

Some things to be aware of are:
  • Avoiding exposure to loud noises and using hearing protection whenever you’re in a noisy environment.
  • Not playing music through your headphones too loudly. It’s a good idea to avoid listening to music through headphones at more than 60% of the highest volume. Noise-cancelling headphones can help, as you won’t need to turn up your music louder to drown out background noise.
If you feel like you’re experiencing hearing loss, get your hearing tested! A free 15-minute hearing check at Boots Hearingcare will make sure your ears are in tip-top condition. Book online to arrange your appointment!

How to help a loved one with hearing loss

Because hearing loss is so gradual, a person may not even notice they have it at first.

This can be frustrating if a loved one seems to be struggling to hear; maybe they put the TV on very loudly, ask you to repeat yourself a lot, or have trouble talking to you on the phone. They could even become withdrawn and spend less time in social situations because they’re struggling to hear.

If you think someone you know has hearing loss, there are some things you can do to help them:
  • Chat in quiet places where there’s less background noise.
  • Make sure they can see your face when you talk – lots of people use basic lip-reading without realising.
  • Encourage them to book a free hearing check and go with them to their appointment.
    • You could even have your hearing tested too.
  • If they need a hearing aid, make sure you’re patient as they get used to hearing better again.
You can also read our advice to find out how someone with a new hearing aid gets used to it! 

Do hearing aids help with all types of hearing loss?

Fortunately, it’s only the least common forms of hearing loss that can’t be helped with the use of hearing aids.

Let’s look at the three main types:
  • Conductive hearing loss – caused by a blockage or inflammation in the outer or middle part of your ear, e.g. an ear infection or too much wax. This type of hearing loss can usually be helped or cured by medication, syringing, or surgery.
  • Sound perception hearing loss – caused by a problem not in the ear, but in the brain. A person with sound perception hearing loss can hear sounds, but their brain can’t process them. This is the rarest form of hearing loss, and the most difficult to treat.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss – the most common form of hearing loss. This is caused by damaged sensory cells in your cochlea or auditory nerve. Age-related hearing loss falls into this category, and it can usually be helped with a hearing aid.
Hearing loss isn’t something to be ignored. Knowing the signs of hearing loss and deafness, what can cause it, when to get medical help and what the main treatments are will go a long way in improving your condition.

If you’re experiencing problems with hearing loss, seek expert help by booking a free hearing health check with Boots Hearingcare

Important: If you feel that your hearing may have deteriorated recently, don’t hesitate to book your free hearing test with a Boots audiologist.
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