Hearing Health

Hearing health is extremely important and needs to be taken into consideration across all age groups.

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Benefits of good hearing

There are endless benefits to the importance of good hearing, with hearing technology and aids lessening the impact that hearing loss has on your life. The earlier you get them, the more you'll get out of them, therefore increasing your quality of life.

Hearing aids are designed to help you hear every day sounds such as the doorbell, telephone and improve your ability to hear overall speech. If designed properly, they should make you feel more confident when talking to people and easier for you to follow conversations in different environments. They might also help you to enjoy listening to music and the TV again, at a volume that's comfortable for those around you.

According to a survey by Action on Hearing Loss, people who use hearing aids are generally very satisfied with them. More than half of those questioned described being fitted with a hearing aid as "a relief" and most of them felt their lives had improved because they "felt more involved."

Hearing therapy

Working with a hearing therapist is one way to maintain your hearing health and help in your transition or requirement for a hearing aid.

The hearing therapist provides a comprehensive rehabilitation service for adults with an acquired hearing loss, to help find ways of accepting and adjusting to hearing loss. This also includes focusing on methods of managing hearing loss, communication and any associated stress. Hearing therapy offers rehabilitation support to patients experiencing difficulty with any ear related condition, alongside seeing a hearing doctor.

The hearing therapist will assess the individual needs of the patient and formulate a programme of support, which may include:

  • Counselling for individuals and their families
  • Advice on communication strategies at home, work and socially
  • Advice on assistive listening devices and environmental equipment
  • Information about local and national organisations
  • Lip-reading tuition
  • Auditory training

Information and advice regarding education and work situations, including consideration of any potential need for adjustments or assistive/alerting equipment.

Sudden profound deafness may additionally require:

  • A specialised management programme for the patient and family
  • Support throughout the Cochlear Implant Programme, if appropriate, including pre-implant counselling and information, and post-implant rehabilitation and auditory training.

Hearing infections

Ear infections are very common, especially amongst children. The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:

  • Pain inside the ear
  • A high temperature of 38C or above
  • Being sick
  • A lack of energy
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Discharge running out of the ear
  • Feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
  • Itching and irritation in and around the ear
  • Scaly skin in and around the ear

Also, for young children and babies, some symptoms and signs may include:

  • Rub or pull their ear
  • Not react to some sounds
  • Be irritable or restless
  • Be off their food
  • Keep losing their balance

It is possible to treat an ear infection yourself, without the need for seeking medical advice. Most ear infections pass in 2 or 3 days, depending on what’s causing it. To help relieve any pain and discomfort from an ear infection:

DO:

  • Use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 shouldn’t take aspirin)
  • Place a warm or cold flannel on the ear
  • Remove any discharge by wiping the ear with cotton wool

DON’T:

Put anything inside your ear to remove earwax, such as cotton buds or your finger

Let water or shampoo get in your ear

When do I see my GP?

If symptoms do not improve and you or your child has the below symptoms, this is when you need to consult your GP for treatment:

  • A high temperature of 38C or above
  • A severe earache for more than 3 days
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Pus coming from the ear
  • Something stuck in the ear
  • Hearing loss or a change in hearing
  • Other symptoms, like vomiting, a severe sore throat or dizziness
  • Regular ear infections

What will happen at my appointment?

Your GP will often use a small light (an otoscope) to look into the ear. Some otoscopes blow a small puff of air into the ear. This checks for blockages, which could be a sign of an infection.

But firstly, it all depends on what type of ear infection you have.

1. For inner ear infections

Antibiotics aren’t always recommended for inner ear infections, as they often clear up on their own. They might be prescribed if you or your child:

  • Has an ear infection that doesn’t get better
  • Is below 2 years of age
  • Has an illness that means there’s a risk of complications, such as cystic fibrosis 2.

For outer ear infections

Speak to your pharmacist first, as they may be able to prescribe drops to help clear it. If this is unsuccessful, then visit your GP.

How to prevent ear infections

You can’t always prevent ear infections, particularly inner ear infections caused by colds and flu.

To help avoid inner ear infections:

  • Ensure your child is up-to-date with vaccinations
  • Keep your child away from smoky environments
  • Try not to give your child a dummy after they’re 6 months old

To help avoid outer ear infections:

  • Don’t stick cotton wool buds or your fingers in your ears
  • Use ear plugs or a swimming hat over your ears when you swim
  • Try to avoid dirty water or shampoo getting into your ears when you shower or bath
  • Seek treatment for conditions that affect your ears, such as eczema