Many people have a hearing lossHearing loss is very common. It is estimated that more than 1 in 7 people have some degree of hearing loss – that’s over 9 million people in the UK alone.

Many people lose some of their hearing as they get older – this is a quite natural process. In fact, more than half of all people over 60 years of age have some degree of age-related hearing loss. This usually occurs gradually over many years – which is why it can often go undetected. In fact, you may be convinced that everyone around you is mumbling, or that the acoustics are particularly poor, rather than accept that you might have a hearing loss.

Other factors can also trigger hearing loss. These include exposure to loud noise (which can include loud music), certain infections and head injuries. Certain types of life saving medications can also cause hearing loss as a side-effect. These types of medicines are said to be ‘ototoxic’ (toxic to the ear) but are only prescribed when life is at risk.

While it is possible to cure certain types of hearing loss with surgery or medicine, this is only true for a minority of cases. Most hearing loss is not curable at the present time – so, once your hearing has been damaged, it cannot usually be recovered. This is why it’s extremely important to take steps to look after your hearing throughout your life, and especially not expose yourself to unnecessarily loud sound.

Early signs of hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss

Early signs of hearing loss

Excessive volume settings on the TV may be an indication of hearing lossIt‘s not always easy to tell whether you have a hearing loss. Since hearing loss can develop gradually over time, it can go unnoticed for quite some years. Below is a list of typical signs that your hearing may be deteriorating:

  • People appear to be whispering or mumbling.
  • Listening in noisy environments - such as in pubs,restaurants or shops where loud music is playing - becomes difficult.
  • Other people complain that you have the television or radio too loud.
  • You need to ask people to repeat things on a regular basis.
  • It is hard to keep up with conversation when talking in a group.
  • You might start to raise your voice.

Many people become worried if they think they are losing their hearing but there are many things that can help. It is much better and more reassuring to have your hearing checked earlier rather than later.

Having your hearing tested is not unpleasant, and you will be under the care of qualified professionals at all times. Using properly fitted hearing aids (if you need them) will not be harmful to your hearing, and in fact can help in preserving as much useful hearing capability as possible. Acknowledging that you might have a hearing loss and accepting that you may need to take action is an important step, but remember that there is plenty of help and support available.

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Noise-induced hearing loss

High sound levels can cause hearing lossNoise-induced hearing loss is often preventable, so it’s important to look after your hearing by protecting it in noisy environments!

The sound may be prolonged (standing close to the speakers at a nightclub, for example) or short in duration (such as a gunshots or fireworks). Noise damages the sensory part of the ear. How much damage occurs to your ears when listening to loud sounds, depends on how loud the sound is as well as for how much time you are exposed. However, if being in a very noisy environment is unavoidable, you should always aim to protect your ears by using ear protection (such as a good pair of earplugs) and try to avoid standing too close to the source of sound.

Also, aim to give your ears a rest by taking regular breaks away from the noise, if you can.

However, the best way to avoid the risk of developing a noise-induced hearing loss is to avoid the sources of loud noise whenever possible.

Damage to the sensory part of ear through noise exposure can also cause tinnitus. Tinnitus is the word used for describing sounds heard from within the ear or the head. Tinnitus noises vary from person to person, but are often described as a ringing, buzzing or whistling sound.

The intensity of tinnitus also varies greatly between people. For some people it is heard only occasionally and at low intensity, but for others unfortunately it can be very obtrusive and have a significant impact on their life. Even short term exposure to loud sound can cause temporary tinnitus.

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