What is hearing loss?
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.
What are the causes of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by many different factors and circumstances. We all lose some of our hearing as we age, although the amount and type of age-related loss can vary; it is a natural part of getting older.
Noise-induced hearing loss, which is responsible for approximately half of all preventable hearing loss cases, happens after prolonged exposure to loud noise such as car radios at high volume, concerts and power tools as well as brief but extremely loud noises like fireworks or alarms.
Another common cause is an ear infection, often triggering inflammation inside the ear that can lead to problems with hearing and balance. Although infection-related loss is often temporary, recurring infections and infections left untreated can lead to long-term or permanent hearing damage.
Hearing impairments can also be genetically inherited or occur because of birth complications and other unforeseen medical issues.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
Just as the causes of hearing loss vary and accumulate, the symptoms and their effects do as well. While hearing damage can sometimes be physically felt in the ears, it is primarily a sensory loss that affects us psychologically and socially.
As well as altering the volumes at which we can hear, hearing loss can also cause sound to become dull and muffled. This makes understanding speech, locating its source and picking it out against background noise tiring and frustrating. Difficulties following conversations when in meetings, on the phone or while socialising with friends can lead to feelings of embarrassment, stress, isolation, loneliness and even depression.
Loss of hearing can also be accompanied by secondary symptoms. Hyperacusis is a heightened sensitivity to certain volumes and frequencies of sound, whereas tinnitus causes ringing and buzzing in the ear when no external sound is present.
It is important to know that identifying hearing problems is not easy and that your family and friends may notice symptoms and changes in your behaviour before you do.
What are the types of hearing loss?
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.
How can I improve and protect my hearing?
It is important to be aware of how your hearing works and to identify the situations in which you have difficulty hearing. Speak to a friend or family member as they may be able to give you advice and support and they might even notice changes in your hearing or behaviour that you haven’t.
Recognising changes in your hearing is a vital part of maintaining it. The ageing process naturally affects your hearing but other factors can have subtle or sudden effects. It’s a good idea to keep track of these changes but we understand that it is not always easy to recognise your symptoms or know what type of hearing loss you might have.
Perhaps the easiest and best way to protect your hearing is to reassure yourself with our expert advice and support. Here at Amplifon we have more than 65 years of experience, and our expert audiologists are dedicated to helping you rediscover what it is like to hear well.
We’re proud to be global hearing health specialists. With a growing network of approximately 8,600 locations in 22 countries, and a large network of stores in the UK, it has never been easier to speak to our experts and experience our innovative digital hearing technology. With personalised hearing solutions and unrivalled Lifetime Aftercare, we are committed to improving and protecting the way you hear the world.