HEARING IMPAIRMENT

Hearing loss is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. It is a common problem that often develops with age or is caused by repeated exposure to loud noises.

There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on where the problem lies:

  • sensorineural hearing loss – caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve; this occurs naturally with age or as a result of injury
  • conductive hearing loss – when sounds are unable to pass from your outer ear to your inner ear, often because of a blockage such as earwaxglue ear or a build-up of fluid from an ear infection, or because of a perforated ear drum or disorder of the hearing bones

It’s also possible to have both these types of hearing loss. This is known as mixed hearing loss.

Some people are born with hearing loss, but most cases develop as you get older. 

Hearing loss can occur suddenly, but usually develops gradually. General signs of hearing loss can include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up higher than other people require

DIAGNOSIS

See your GP if :

  • you’re having problems with your hearing
  • your child is showing signs of hearing difficulty
  • If you lose your hearing suddenly, in one or both ears.

Your GP can check for any problems and may refer you to an audiologist (hearing specialist) or an ENT surgeon for further tests.

 

TREATMENT

Hearing loss is treated depending upon the cause and severity.

Sensorineural hearing loss– the following may  improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate.

  • digital hearing aids – which are available through the NHS
  • bone anchored implants – suitable for people who are unable to use hearing aids and for some levels of sensorineural hearing loss
  • middle ear implants – suitable for some people who are unable to use hearing aids
  • cochlear implants – for people who find hearing aids aren’t powerful enough
  • lip reading and/or sign language  such as British Sign Language (BSL)

Conductive hearing loss– is sometimes temporary and can be treated with medication or if necessary a minor surgery. However, major surgery may be required to fix the ear drum or hearing bones. If conventional hearing aids don’t work, there are also some implantable devices for this type of hearing loss, such as a Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHAs).

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