Hearing loss is a common condition that can affect people in many ways. Around one in six people in the UK have hearing loss, from children who are born with it to people who lose their hearing as they get older.
It can be quite an unsettling condition to experience and can also have an impact on those around you, too. So, if you are worried about hearing loss, or think you might know someone who is, we’re here to help.
Signs of hearing loss
If you’ve noticed any signs of hearing loss in yourself, or in a loved one, it might be a good idea to check your hearing online or pop into a store for a hearing test and some expert advice.
It can be difficult to tell if you’re losing your hearing, and in some cases, people around you might notice before you do. It can be especially tricky to recognise hearing loss symptoms if you have hearing loss in one ear but can still hear perfectly with the other.
Some of the most common signs that your hearing may have changed include:
- Having to ask people to repeat themselves, or misunderstanding what they say
- Turning the volume higher than you used to on the TV, radio or on your headphones
- Struggling to hear people on the phone
What does hearing loss sound like?
Causes of hearing loss
When we experience hearing loss, it simply means that the sounds around us aren’t being communicated properly to our brain. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, depending on the type of hearing loss that someone has.
There are two main types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. It’s also possible to have both at the same time, which is referred to as mixed hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cells that pick up sound or to the nerves that carry information from the ear to the brain. This could include damage to the inner ear, the auditory nerve (the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain), or to the brain itself.
Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by blockages in the ear canal or middle ear, which reduces the level of sound that can pass through to the inner ear.
Risk factors for hearing loss
The most common causes of hearing loss are ageing and exposure to excessive noise. Some other risk factors include:
- Trauma to the head or ear
- Autoimmune conditions — such as rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune inner ear disease
- Hereditary conditions — including Alport syndrome, a genetic condition associated with hearing loss
Understanding your hearing
While your ear and all the structures of your ear process and transport the electrical impulses that make up sound, it’s your brain that actually ‘hears’ and translates this information into the things you recognise as words, music, or noise.
That’s why hearing and hearing loss can have such far-reaching impacts. And why more and more research is being done into how hearing loss can affect our mental health, as well as how we process and store information.
Treatment for hearing loss
Your doctor or audiologist will discuss which treatment they feel is best with you, which will depend on the cause and severity of your hearing loss. In some cases, hearing loss can get better on its own or be treated with medicine or a simple procedure.
Hearing aids are commonly recommended as a way to manage hearing loss. If this is suggested as the best way forward for you, your audiologist will talk you through the next steps.
A hearing check at Specsavers is free, quick, easy and totally non-invasive. If the results suggest a need for hearing aids, our qualified hearing care professionals can help you, or your friend or family member, to decide on a hearing aid that’s right for the situation. In most cases, we can even fit hearing aids on the same day as the test*.
*Subject to availibility.