Hearing loss will affect one in six of us by the time we reach our 60s, with over nine million people living with hearing loss in the UK today. Losing your hearing can be part of the natural ageing process (known as age-related hearing loss), and with modern advances in hearing tests and technology the condition is very manageable. We’re here to help minimise the impact of hearing loss on your everyday life. Sometimes, hearing loss is caused by more than just reaching our golden years. There are a range of conditions, situations and sometimes just bad luck which can impair your hearing. These are some of the most common causes of hearing loss.
Gradual Hearing Loss
Your family and friends are likely to notice that you have this type of hearing loss before you do. It can be hard for you to detect, as it can happen so gradually you barely notice. You may have had someone close to you mention that you seem to be struggling to hear them, or that the volume on your television is louder than normal. However, the earlier a loss is detected, the better your hearing can be preserved. There are several factors that can cause gradual hearing loss:
Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss is the most common forms of hearing loss. We have sensory hair cells (called stereocilia) in our ears which detect sound waves, before then transmitting them through nerves for our brain to interpret as sound. When these cells become damaged they can’t repair themselves. As you reach old age, you have a lifetime of wear and tear to these stereocilia, which will contribute to hearing problems. Technically there isn’t a “cure” for age related hearing loss, as the wear and tear is irreversible and, in a case of “use it or lose it”, the parts of the brain that interpret sound slowly lose the ability to do so. However, there is an amazing variety of discreet hearing aids available for even severe hearing loss to help you make the most of sounds around you and prevent the hearing loss worsening. Unobtrusive, stylish and technically advanced, hearing aids are adaptable to suit your lifestyle and help you hear how you used to.
Lifestyle and genes
Your lifestyle choices can affect your long-term hearing, whether this is your love of listening to your headphones a little too loud, or your career in high-volume environments, this can all take its toll over time and gradually impair the health of your ears, damaging the hair cells that capture and transmit sound.
Deafness can also be hereditary, which means you may be more prone to hearing loss than normal. If you have immediate family with hearing loss, be sure to get regular hearing assessments to spot any symptoms early.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise induced hearing loss is one of the most common causes of hearing loss is the world. If you spend time in noisy environments either at work, or in your leisure time, you may develop a hearing loss. This doesn’t have to be very excessively loud noise such as in factories, engine rooms, or working with heavy machinery or powertools, noise induced hearing loss is a regular concern for other workers such as hairdressers , dental nurses, or bar staff . Some jobs and hobbies require you to hear well, so conserving your hearing is important, and our specialist audiologists can offer advice and information on reducing the risk of noise induced hearing loss. Always try to avoid prolonged exposure to loud noises by keeping any music or television at a reasonable level, and wearing ear protection in environments you know will be hard on your ears.
Otosclerosis is a condition that affects the tiny bones in your ear. Normally found in young adults, you may also have symptoms such as struggling to hearing deep sounds, tinnitus in one or both ears, and dizziness. Many of these symptoms are very similar to most hearing loss conditions; what makes otosclerosis unusual is many people find it easier to hear things when there is some form of background noise. Otosclerosis can affect your long-term hearing if untreated, and your audiologist will be able to offer advice and can refer you for diagnosis and treatment.
Research is being undertaken which suggests links with diabetes and hearing loss. We all know that diabetes can affect our eyesight, and the sensitivity in our fingers and toes, but we often forget the tiny nerve endings in the ear. Any hearing loss will develop slowly over time, so it's important to have regular hearing health checks to maintain your hearing levels, and spot any changes quickly. As we look after your eyes and ears, why not book in for a hearing check at the same time as your regular diabetes eye checks?
Tinnitus affects 10% of people in the UK. Tinnitus is the name for any sound we can hear that has no external source and can be quiet or loud , high or low sounds, and can range from ringing, hissing, buzzing, tingling, to snippets of musical sounds. Tinnitus doesn’t alway affect hearing, but it is often indicative of hearing loss. Your audiologist will be able to offer a thorough tinnitus assessment and give you the best advice and information.
Whilst this is a quite a rare condition, it can be identified early by regular hearing health check ups. Cholesteatoma is a growth in the middle ear area, which, if untreated, can damage the fragile structure and workings of your ear. This will often come with an ear infection, causing pain and discharge from one of your ears. As with any changes to your hearing, or ear health, you must see your GP with any symptoms so they can recommend the best treatment to continue. In the case of cholesteatoma, the most common treatment is surgery.
Sudden hearing loss
This can be alarming, and it is certainly worth contacting your local audiologist if your hearing deteriorates suddenly. However, more often than not it is nothing to worry about and can be easily treated or in some cases even go away by itself. Some main causes of sudden hearing loss include:
Build-up of ear wax in your ear canal can block sound waves, resulting in sudden loss of hearing. It’s important that you don’t try and unblock your ears yourself with cotton buds – this will push the wax further into your ear, and make the condition worse. There is always a risk that you could perforate your eardrum by using cotton buds or other objects to “remove” earwax yourself. Luckily, The Hearing Care Partnership offers a variety of ear wax removal methods depending on the severity of your ear wax build up, so you can get back to normal in no time.
Perforated Ear Drum
When your ear drum has a hole in it, you will certainly notice! Not only will a loss in your hearing occur, but you will also experience symptoms including itching, pain or fluid leaking from your ear. More often than not, ear drums will repair themselves in a matter of weeks. During this time, your doctor or audiologist may recommend certain treatments or medications to help the healing process, so it is vital to get in touch if you think you have perforated your ear drum.
It is a little-known fact that in certain doses, some medications can affect your hearing. Everything from high doses of aspirin to some antibiotics can give you vertigo, tinnitus or can result in the sudden loss of your hearing. These are called ‘ototoxic’ medications, and the side effects normally reside once you stop your medication. If you are concerned about any side effects from medication you are taking, it is important to contact your GP as soon as you can.
Loud and Sudden Noise
Sudden or very loud noises such as gunfire or fireworks can cause a sudden deterioration in your hearing. Often this leaves a ringing in your ears called tinnitus, which can be distressing; interfering with sleep and hearing well. Audiologists can provide advice and support with managing tinnitus, and modern hearing aids often incorporate tinnitus management masking programmes which can be very helpful
Most importantly, if you have any concerns over your hearing or ear health, you can contact your THCP audiologist at your local store, or book a free hearing assessment online.