There are many degrees of hearing impairment.
Types of Hearing Loss
One in every six adults in the UK – that’s over 10 million people - are deaf or have a hearing loss. What may have caused the deafness or loss of hearing? Here, we cover some of the most common causes.
Sudden hearing loss
Sometimes, for a variety of different reasons, hearing in either ear can get noticeably worse over a very short period of time (between a few seconds or minutes to within seven days).
A sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency; if you notice a significant change in your hearing that occurs within a short period of time, be this seconds, minutes, days or under one week, then you should visit your local Emergency Department (A&E or Minor Injuries) to have it assessed.
Many people are put off getting it checked because they think it may be a wax obstruction, but the delay of diagnosis of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNL) will decrease the effectiveness of the required treatment.
Noise induced hearing loss
Whether through exposure to loud noise at work or through hobbies, such as shooting or music, the delicate inner ear can easily be damaged which results in a hearing loss.
Defending your ears from life-changing hearing loss and tinnitus is essential and custom fitted, superbly comfortable devices can offer protection to your ears if you are regularly exposed to excessive noise. We have Noise Protection specialists who can help.
The Government has provided a useful guide on what noise levels you can expect from various industries but any prolonged exposure to excessive noise can be detrimental so must be protected.
Age related hearing loss
Also known as presbycusis, this is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most people as they get older. Adults generally notice symptoms of this from their mid-50s onwards; for example, missing out on conversations, thinking people are mumbling or increasing the volume of the TV.
Age-related hearing loss tends to occur in both ears, deteriorating equally in each ear very gradually over the years. Due to it being so gradual, a lot of people don’t even realise that their ability to hear particular things has worsened; quite often it is noticed by close friends or family first!
Sensorineural hearing loss
This is caused by damage or deterioration of the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve; this natural occurs with age or can be as a result of injury. This is typically an irreversible change to hearing.
Congenital hearing loss
Meaning ‘born with’, the term ‘congenital hearing loss’ is used when a hearing loss has been present since birth.
This can occur in one of two ways: the hearing was damaged during fetal development or complications during birth itself; or certain genes inherited by the baby resulted in a hereditary loss of hearing function at some point in their life (it is not always present from birth).
Examples of non-genetic causes of congenital hearing loss include:
- maternal rubella, syphilis or certain other infections during pregnancy
- low birth weight
- a lack of oxygen at birth
- use of certain powerful drugs during pregnancy as treatment for
- life-threatening infections or diseases
- severe jaundice after birth, which can damage the baby’s hearing nerve.
As the intensive care of pre-term babies has improved over the years, so has the prognosis. Less than 1% of premature babies become deaf due to problems associated with being born prematurely.
Generic hearing loss
In the UK, approximately one in 1,600 children is born moderately to profoundly deaf because of a genetic cause. Our genes (which are maps for the building blocks of everything in our body, including our ears) play a significant role in our hearing health. Sometimes, there can be an inherited genetic defect, the effects of which may become apparent at any stage of a person’s life.
There are NHS centres offering free, genetic counselling for deafness around the country. Ask your Chime Audiologist, your GP, Pediatrician or ENT consultant for more information.
Conductive hearing loss
This is caused by sounds being stopped from reaching your inner ear 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 damage to the bones in the middle ear.
Depending on the cause, this can sometimes be treated by a medically trained Ear Nose and Throat specialist.
Bilateral hearing loss
This is a hearing loss that affects both ears.
Unilateral hearing loss
This is a hearing loss that affects just one of your ears.
Common Symptoms of Hearing Loss
(written from the perspective of the client / patient)
These are the most common symptoms described by someone with a hearing loss; if you can hear yourself admitting any of these then it is you should get your hearing checked.
- People sound like they are mumbling – especially when I’m in background noise
- I frequently have to ask people to repeat what they are saying
- I get exhausted and have to withdraw from conversations
- I find it difficult to hear in group situations – especially in the pub / in a restaurant I find it easier to hear men’s voices compared to women’s
- I need the volume of the TV or radio to be louder than others would like it
- I often misunderstand what people are saying – sometimes even replying and hoping I’ve correctly guessed the answer
- I struggle to understand people on the telephone
- I hear better on one side than the other – particularly notable when listening to something with one ear on the pillow
- My friends & family suggest that I’m missing parts of conversations
- I try and avoid busy social situations.
I think someone I know has hearing loss
If you have noticed someone you know struggling in the situations mentioned above, then they may well have some form of hearing loss and could find it beneficial to get advice from one of our qualified Audiologists.
Since age-related hearing loss occurs so slowly over the years, our brains do not notice the change so it is often our friends and family who are able to spot the signs of such a deterioration. This is why it can help having a conversation about it; mention that you’ve noticed they are struggling in certain situations and use examples to help them understand. Then just let this settle in and give them time to digest this information!
Now you have mentioned it, chances are they will start to notice other situations where they aren’t hearing as well as they should be and they may be more inclined to approach their GP for a referral to Audiology. There are lots of management techniques and devices that can help them.
If they would rather purchase some brand new premium hearing aids with high-tech, advanced digital processing and adaptation, then they can have a free hearing assessment at our Chime Hearing Centre without a referral. Getting a quick hearing check can provide them with an accurate picture of what their hearing is like in both ears and we recommend this for anyone who suspects a problem with their hearing; particularly if you are over 50.