As hearing loss varies from person to person, finding the right treatment will depend on your lifestyle, the type of hearing loss you have and what works best for you.
Treatment for hearing loss is evolving all the time, with new research constantly finding new methods to improve hearing when it’s been impaired by age, loud noises or medical conditions.
The main goal of hearing treatment is to restore your ‘hearing function’, so you can continue to enjoy the sounds around you.
What happens after your hearing test?
The first thing you need to do before we can decide on your treatment is to have your hearing tested by an expert audiologist. These are non-invasive tests designed to find out what kind of sounds you’re hearing, and which ones you aren’t. You can find out more about the hearing test here.
Once we have the results from your test we can decide on how to treat your hearing loss. Your hearing test may show us that something is blocking your ear canal, such as earwax. Other times you may need to be assessed and fitted for a hearing aid to help restore your hearing. Your audiologist will talk you through the options available for you during your appointment.
Earwax is one of the more common causes of hearing loss, alongside age. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to treat, as long as the removal of the earwax is carried out by an experienced professional. If earwax build-up is affecting your hearing or producing any other troublesome symptoms, we provide a safe and efficient service.
Please don’t be tempted to try and remove earwax yourself as you’re more likely to compact the earwax or cause further issues.
Hearing aids are probably the most well-known treatment for hearing loss.
There are many different types depending on your budget and needs, but all hearing aids include a microphone to pick up sounds, an amplifier to increase the volume of sounds received and speakers to let you hear the amplified sounds.
Once you’ve had a chat with one of our audiologists and decided on the hearing aid you want, your audiologist will tell you what happens next. You’ll need to find a time to get your hearing aid fitted — this can usually be done the same day as your hearing test, as long as the hearing aid is in stock. For some products, like open-fit or custom-fit aids, you may have to come back another day.
If you choose an ‘in the ear’ style, a mould of your ear is taken to make sure your hearing aid fits perfectly. You only need impressions taken for custom-fit hearing aids or if you are having an ear mould made for your hearing aid.
A hearing aid fitting takes around 45 minutes, during which time your audiologist will check the health of your ears, show you how to use and fit your hearing aids and programme them for your needs.
Cochlear (hearing) implants
If you have a more profound type of hearing loss, you may be recommended a cochlear implant. These are very small devices that are implanted directly into your ear.
Cochlear implants don’t restore normal hearing, instead they provide a sense of sound to help you understand speech. So, rather than amplifying and isolating sounds or ‘turning up the volume’ like hearing aids, these devices bypass the damaged part of the ear to transmit sounds directly to the auditory nerve. Electrical impulses then travel along this nerve to the brain which interprets them as sounds.
Because of this, it can take some time to get used to the sounds generated from cochlear implants and to relearn hearing in a new way.
Getting a cochlear implant
Getting a cochlear implant is quite a serious decision as they require surgical intervention and long-term therapy and guidance in order to gain the most benefit from them.
Complications are a risk with every surgery, but cochlear implants are considered very safe in general. Guidance and therapy are required because the sounds generated by direct stimulation of the auditory nerve don’t sound like the sounds we are used to. It can take a little bit of time to adjust to the new type of hearing.
People who experience significant hearing loss later in life have still shown that they benefit from a cochlear implant.
If you need a cochlear implant, you’ll be referred to a specialist ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor to discuss your options.
Assistive listening devices
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) come in many forms and variations. Their main function is to help one-to-one communication and improve your ability to participate fully in your day-to-day life. ALDs can also be used in conjunction with both hearing aids or cochlear implants to amplify and isolate certain sounds.
These are the most basic devices but are useful when the above systems aren’t available or installed. Personal amplifiers use a directional microphone to increase the volume of sound reaching the listener.
Are ALDs the same as hearing aids?
Hearing aids are the only hearing devices approved for the medical treatment of hearing loss. ALDs are often used to complement the use of a hearing aid.
Assistive devices refer to sound amplifiers, which increase the volume of all surrounding sounds. Some try to improve the quality of hearing by increasing the volume in a particular direction that would be useful to the user.
For example, amplifying the sound coming from the person in front of them rather than all sounds surrounding them.
What kind of support can I get if my baby has hearing loss?
You have a range of options and services as a family, partly depending on the level of your baby's hearing loss. The way you think about the different choices and what's best for your child may change over time.
Whatever you decide, remember you can find support from a range of agencies from the moment that your child is identified as having hearing loss:
- Your local paediatric audiology service will look into your baby's hearing loss and arrange for your baby to have hearing aids fitted if that's what you want
- If your baby has very severe to profound hearing loss, they may be referred to a specialist cochlear implant centre for an assessment. This will determine whether they could benefit from a cochlear implant. There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss what will be best for your child with the specialists
- The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) provides a range of information and can put you in touch with other parents in your area
- Your local education authority should provide information, practical advice and support through regular home visits from a qualified Teacher of the Deaf. They will be available to support you with information about your options and strategies, and put you in contact with other professionals.