Hearing Loss: An Issue We Must All Address

Is hearing loss something your really need to worry about? Doesn’t it just affect older people? In actual fact, no; hearing loss affects more people than you might think, and of all ages. According to Action on Hearing Loss, over ten million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing impairment– equating to one in six of the population. While it is true that older people are more likely to be affected, the charity group estimates that 3.7 million of that ten-million figure are still of working age. What’s more, the problem appears to be worsening, with the group expecting 14.5 million Brits to be living with some form of hearing loss by the year 2031. With all this in mind, it’s clear that the message about protecting ears and hearing correction needs to get out to all adults, not just those in retirement.

What did you say?

How hearing loss develops

One of the major problems that the medical community faces in spreading this message about hearing loss is the fact that, in most cases, hearing loss is a very slow, degenerative process. It is true that deafness – partial or profound – can be caused by accidents, exposure to a single extremely-high-decibel noise, or an infection which can either attack the sensitive ear cells or cause swelling which damages them. Yet most of the time, it is due to the gradual degeneration of the inner ear.

So you know what we are referring to, the ear is basically split up into the three parts – the outer (the bit you can see), the middle (mostly the ear canal) and the inner ear. Within the inner ear sit the tiny bones which detect vibration and deal with balance, and the delicate hair cells which turn these vibrations into electronic signals that the brain can process as sounds. Damage to any of these constituent parts can cause hearing loss, but it is those inner ear cells that are most susceptible to degenerative damage.

Exposure to loud noise on a regular basis – even if it is not loud enough to cause immediate damage – can accelerate this degenerative process, and can also lead to the development of a condition called tinnitus. This involves hearing a constant ringing in the ears when no external sound is present, and can be an extremely frustrating condition for which there is, as yet, no cure.

Protecting you hearing

So if your hearing is at risk at any age, you should be aware of how to protect it. Ensuring they are regularly checked and cleaned by your doctor is a good start, as wax build up can lead to blockages which cause hearing impairment. Then think about reducing your exposure to loud noises; volumes should be turned down on personal music players, while ear plugs should be considered when going anywhere where you might be exposed to very loud noises, such as clubs and music concerts.

Spotting hearing loss

As most hearing loss is a slow, degenerative process, it can occasionally be difficult to spot the signs of hearing loss. The way to do it is look at aspects of daily life and try and identify if things are changing to accommodate impaired hearing. For instance, are you turning the television up to a higher volume? Are you finding it more difficult to follow conversations in busy pubs? Is holding a conversation on the telephone becoming more difficult? The NHS has a broad range of similar questions which you can apply to your own circumstances or those of a loved one; if you find yourself answering yes to a lot of them, it is time to take action on tackling that hearing loss.

Taking action

With infections and accidents that have suddenly robbed you of your hearing, swift action is vitally important to prevent long-term damage. However, even with degenerative hearing loss, getting help sooner rather than later is beneficial. Speak to your GP, or get a free hearing test and consultation from a hearing specialist, as you’ll be able to get an idea of practical hearing aids that may be able to help you at the same time. If you want to go with a hearing aid brand that’s globally recognized as a leader in performance and innovation, you should check out Oticon. This Danish company is backed up by over a century of experience, which is why it’s unrivaled when it comes to sound quality and connectivity. Amplifon has some useful information on the various types of hearing aid currently available and how suitable they may be for your circumstances.