Hearing loss is a common problem that often develops with age oris caused by repeated exposure to loud noises.

Action on Hearing Loss estimates that there are more than 10 million (about 1 in 6) people in the UKwith some degree of hearing impairmentor deafness.

Hearing loss can occur suddenly, but usually develops gradually. General signs of hearing loss 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 higher than other people require

There aretwomain types of hearing loss, depending on where the problem lies:

  • sensorineural hearing loss causedby damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to 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 because of a blockage such as earwax , glue ear or a build-up of fluid from an ear infection , or because of a perforated ear drum or disorder of the hearing bones

It's also possible to have both these types of hearing loss. This is known as mixed hearing loss.

Somepeople are born with hearing loss, but most cases develop as you get older.

This includes not having music or the television on at aloud volume at home and usingear protection at loud music events or in noisy work environments.

You should also seeyour GP ifyou have signs of an ear infection, such as flu -like symptoms, severe earache , dischargeor hearing loss.

In cases of sensorineural hearing loss, there are several options that may help to improve a persons ability to hear and communicate. These include:

  • digitalhearing aids which areavailable through the NHS
  • bone anchored implants suitable forpeople who are unable to use hearing aids and for some levels of sensorineural hearing loss
  • middle ear implants suitable forsome people who are unable to use hearing aids
  • cochlear implants for people who find hearing aids aren't powerful enough
  • lip reading and/or sign language such as British Sign Language (BSL)

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 don't work, there are also some implantable devices for this type of hearing loss, such as a Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHAs).


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017