On average it takes ten years for people to address their hearing loss.
Around ten million, or one in six people in the UK are thought to have some degree of hearing impairment and by 2031 it is estimated there will be 14.5m people with hearing loss in the UK.
About two million people in the UK have hearing aids but only 1.4m use them regularly.
There are at least 4m people in the UK who don’t have hearing aids but who would benefit from using one.
Most hearing loss is related to ageing though genetics, stress, being overweight are all thought to play a part. Hearing loss may also be caused by maternal rubella, complications at birth, chronic ear infections, use of ototoxic drugs at any age such as some antibiotic and antimalarial medicine, exposure to excessive noise and certain infectious diseases such as meningitis.
Types of Hearing Loss
The gradual loss of hearing that occurs in most people as they grow older and because the loss is gradual, people may not realise their hearing is going. Over half of all people over 60 have some sort of hearing loss with the figure rising to 70% for the over-70s. Presbycusis generally arises from changes in the inner ear but it can also result from changes in the middle ear or from complex changes along the nerve pathways leading to the brain. Presbycusis most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally.
Conductive hearing loss is when the sound cannot travel from the outer to the middle ear due to a blockage such as earwax, a fluid build-up caused by infection, otosclerosis (bone growth), perforation of the eardrum or a cholesteatoma (acquired or congenital growth in the ear).
Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the sensitive hair cells inside part of the inner ear called the cochlea or the auditory nerve. It is caused by ageing as well as exposure to loud music, infections, some medicines, cancer treatment, acoustic neuroma, and injury.
Symptoms of hearing loss
- The speech of others seems mumbled or slurred.
- High pitched speech sounds such as ‘s’, ‘f’ and ‘th’ are difficult to hear and distinguish.
- Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise
- A man’s voice is easier to hear than the higher pitches of a woman’s voice, or noises such as a telephone ringing or birds chirping.
- Certain sounds seem overly loud.
- Difficulty listening to the TV.
It isn’t always possible to prevent hearing loss if you have an underlying condition that can cause you to lose your hearing. However, since long-term exposure to loud noise is known to cause hearing loss, you can reduce the risk by not listening to the music or TV at high volumes and using ear-protection at loud music events or in noisy work environments.
It depends on the cause and severity of hearing loss, but there are various options that can improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate.
These include digital hearing aids, middle ear implants, cochlear implants and lip reading or sign language training.
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