Hearing loss can be caused by a number of different factors, however, the most common form of hearing loss is caused by the natural ageing process. As we age, our ears require more sound energy to hear the same things.
There are a number of ways in which a person’s hearing ability can be measured. The most common way of measuring a person’s hearing is by performing what is known as a pure tone audiogram (PTA). During a PTA a series of beeps (or tones) are presented at different pitches and levels. The patient responds, often by pressing a button, when they hear a sound in their ear. The quietest sound a person is recorded at different pitches. Other tests that assess a person’s ability to hear different speech sounds may also be used.
Hearing loss is diagnosed by a hearing care professional who will perform a hearing test, as well as other tests that may look at how well your ear drum is moving. The hearing test will look at your ears ability to detect different sound pitches and loudness. If the quietest sound you hear is higher
Deafness has a primary impact on communication, which can be impaired which can lead to social withdrawal and isolation due to reduced access to services and difficulties communicating with others. Hearing poorly can affect memory and awareness of whats going on around us.
Hearing loss can impact communication in a number of ways. Hearing speech in background noise can be particularly challenging and can make social situations difficult to manage. As people’s hearing begins to deteriorate, speech may sound muffled and you may mishear other people. One may rely on lip-reading, visual cues and context more than before.
Age related hearing loss or presbycusis, is known as sensorineural hearing loss, and results from deterioration of the outer hair cells that fine tune and amplify sound. Age related hearing loss affects the higher frequencies most and progresses with age.
It is difficult to predict how an individuals hearing may change over time, however, as we age there is a slow progression of hearing loss
Hearing loss does not directly impact your balance. Hearing loss may make you feel disorientated or make it more difficult to locate where sound is coming from. A study from the US showed that individuals with a hearing loss are 3x more likely to fall than their hearing peers. There is also research that shows that people with hearing loss are 3 x more likely to have accidents at work.
The inner ear is also responsible for sending signals to the brain that give us awareness of our head and body position in relation to gravity. Some conditions can impact both the hearing system and balance (vestibular) system. If you experience dizziness and hearing loss be sure to let your hearing professional know, you may require a referral to a ENT doctor.
The WHO suggests that hearing loss of 40 dB or worse is a disability. However, there is much debate as to where this threshold should be and recently the WHO and others have settled on 35 dB as the threshold that indicates disability to the extent that support is required and is beneficial.
Hearing loss in one ear can be very important to investigate further and should always be referred to medical team member to investigate medically
This depends on the type of hearing loss. Some hearing losses caused by a blockage or fixation of the hearing bones can be reversed or improved using surgery, however. If your hearing loss is caused by age or something that results in a sensorineural type hearing loss then unfortunately this cannot be reversed, and hearing aids may be an inappropriate option for you.
Any hearing loss that is causing you difficulty communicating or other’s notice generally requires investigation. If a hearing loss is greater than 30-35 dBHL your hearing care professional may discuss hearing aids as an option for you.
Wax can cause a hearing loss, however, hearing loss can give the impression of having a blocked ear. It is always worth getting your ears examined by a trained hearing care professional.
Hearing loss and tinnitus can co-occur or can occur independently of each other. Tinnitus Is the subjective awareness of sounds in ones ear and is derived from the Latin term tinari, meaning ‘to ring’. Although, tinnitus does not necessarily have to be a ringing sound, it can present in many different forms and be described in many different ways. It is often associated with a hearing loss.
Treatment for hearing loss depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss. If your loss is ‘sensorineural’, it is not caused by wax or middle ear problems, then often the most appropriate form of treatment or management is fitting a hearing aid to amplify specific sounds and pitches that your ears do not pick up quite as well as they may once have. In some cases, where a hearing loss has a conductive or middle ear component to it, medical or surgical intervention may be a good option.
Hearing loss can be managed on the NHS and hearing aids are offered free of charge if you meet the criteria. The NHS does an amazing job and have some really fantastic clinicians, however, the NHS is limited by accessibility, often requiring you to wait, the type of hearing aid they can offer and the level of aftercare they can provide.