As part of our Wellness Wednesdays campaign, we’ll be sharing a blog every Wednesday from Healthily – our preferred health partner – to give you tips, advice and guidance on a wide variety of health conditions. This blog is about hearing loss – prevention, recognising its effects and understanding what treatments are available.
Hearing loss is a common problem that often develops with age or is caused by repeated exposure to loud noises. It can occur suddenly, but usually develops gradually. General signs can include:
- difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say;
- asking people to repeat themselves;
- listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up high.
When to see your doctor
See your doctor if you are having problems with your hearing, particularly if you lose the hearing in one ear. If you lose your ability to hear suddenly you must see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor can check for any problems and may refer you to an audiologist (hearing specialist) or an ENT surgeon for further tests.
Why it happens
Changes to your ability to hear are the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. There are two main types of auditory change, depending on where the problem lies:
- sensorineural hearing loss – caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells inside part of the inner ear called the cochlea or the auditory nerve; this occurs naturally with age or as a result of injury.
- conductive hearing loss – when sounds are unable to pass from your outer ear to your inner ear, often as the result of a blockage such as earwax, glue ear or a build-up of fluid due to an ear infection, a perforated ear drum or a disorder of the hearing bones.
It’s also possible to have both these types; this is known as mixed hearing loss. Some people are born with loss of hearing, but most cases develop as you get older.
Read more about causes of hearing loss.
Preventing hearing loss
It isn’t always possible to prevent hearing loss if you have an underlying condition. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of losing your hearing from long-term exposure to loud noise. This includes not having music or the television on at a loud volume at home and using ear-protection at loud music events or in noisy work environments.
Read more about preventing hearing loss.
Treating the problem depends on what has caused it and how severe it is. In cases of sensorineural hearing loss, there are several options that may help to improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate. These include:
- digital hearing aid;
- middle ear implants – surgically implanted devices suitable for some people who are unable to use hearing aids;
- cochlear implants – small devices that are surgically implanted inside the inner ear for people who find that hearing aids are not powerful enough;
- lip reading or [sign language].
Conductive hearing loss is sometimes temporary and can be treated with medication or minor surgery if necessary. However, more major surgery may be required to fix the ear drum or hearing bones. If conventional hearing aids do not work, there are also some implantable devices, such as a Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHAs).
Read more about treating hearing loss.
You can read the full article in the Healthily Health Library where it was originally published.