Hearing loss is the partial or total inability to hear. It’s a common problem that can affect anyone. Also referred to as hearing impairment or deafness, hearing loss covers a wide range of categories and symptoms which can be caused by a variety of factors and circumstances.
Hearing problems can be temporary or permanent and can occur gradually or suddenly depending on the cause. One or both ears can be affected, or one ear may be affected more than the other.
There are two main types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot reach the inner ear. Causes can include a build-up of earwax, something blocking the outer ear, outer and middle ear infections, excess fluid in the middle ear, perforated eardrums, and abnormal bone growth in the middle ear.
Sensorineural loss is when damage is caused to the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve that transmits nerve impulses to the brain. Causes might be ageing and exposure to loud noises, as well as hereditary hearing issues and problems arising from physical trauma, certain medicines and viral infections of the inner ear.
If your symptoms affect only one ear, it is defined as unilateral hearing, whereas loss in both ears is called bilateral hearing loss.
Common hearing loss signs include:
Recognising that someone close to you, a friend or family member is experiencing challenges with their hearing is not always easy as hearing loss tends to happen gradually over time and your loved may not know that they have some symptoms of hearing loss. It can present questions such as, what can I do to help my loved one? Where can I get more information? Who can I go to for help?
Understanding the types of environments your loved one experiences difficulties in can help identify the type of hearing loss they may have. You may find that you’re loved is aware that their hearing is not as good as it used to be but is unsure what to do or they may refuse to accept changes in their hearing.
Changes in your loved one’s hearing can affect their emotional state of mind. They may feel stressed and frustrated by not being able to hear everything around them or conversations with those closest to them. Feeling embarrassed or nervous as you may misunderstand parts of the conversation or not fully understanding a conversation. Social adventures can become more challenging for your loved ones and they may not attend as many events and gatherings due to this.
Within this section you will find helpful information and support to help you and your loved one recognise and understand your and their hearing.