The following information is intended for advice only, if you have any medical symptoms or problems you should always consult a doctor.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is something that affects many people. The hearing loss can be minor or severe, and in some cases total. There are a huge number of causes of hearing loss, affecting each individual differently. Some people will lose their hearing slowly, while others will have a more rapid loss.
People who have a gradual hearing loss, may not realise they have a problem. They can slowly adapt to the loss. However friends and family will notice that there is a problem, as the television may begin to get louder, the individual may have problems hearing the door bell etc. Gradual hearing loss may change someone’s personality. They may continually say ‘pardon’, and begin to withdraw from general conversation. Especially in any background noise situations, such as parties, restaurants, anywhere that more than one person is talking.
Any type of hearing problem should always be discussed with a doctor.
There are many causes of hearing loss. These can be divided into two groups,called Conductive and Sensorineural hearing loss.
It is possible to have both types present at the same time, called a mixed loss. More rarely, hearing loss can result from damage to the auditory part of the brain.
Conductive hearing Loss
This is caused by anything that interferes with the transmission of sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. Examples would be:
Perforated eardrum: This can be caused by untreated middle ear infections, a head injury, poking a foreign object in your eardrum.
Otitis media: Middle ear infection.
Glue ear: A collection of fluid in the middle ear.
Blockage of the ear canal: This could be from wax or any foreign object
Otosclerosis: A condition where the ossicles (middle ear bones) harden and become less mobile.
Damage to Ossicles: This may happen after a head injury or serious infection.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is sometimes called sensory, cochlear, neural or inner ear hearing loss.
A permanent sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells inside the cochlear or the hearing nerve, or both. Cochlear damage occurs naturally as part of the aging process ( known as presbycusis), but many things that can cause sensorineural damage add to this. Examples are:
Regular and prolonged exposure to loud sounds: These loud sounds do not have to be unpleasant. Loud music can be just as harmful as sloud factory machinery. Even short term exposure to loud sound, can cause temporary deafness, as can Shooting without ear defenders.
Certain infectious diseases: Including rubella, mumps or meningitis
Ototoxic drugs: These are drugs that are harmful to the cochlea and/or the hearing nerve. These include drugs that are used in the treatment of serious diseases, such as cancer. Some very powerful antibiotics can cause permanent hearing loss.
Complications at birth: Can cause hearing loss.
Injuries to the head: Can cause hearing loss.
A benign (non cancerous) tumour on the auditory nerve called an acoustic neuroma: These are rare and can cause hearing loss. They can be treated with surgery.
Meniere’s disease: This can cause dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus.
Other neurological conditions that affect the brain or nervous system: Such as multiple sclerosis, stroke or brain tumour.
Genetic predisposition: Some people are more prone to hearing loss then others.
If you feel that you have a hearing problem, the first thing you should always do is visit your doctor. The hearing problem may be caused by a build up in wax or an ear infection. This will cause a temporary hearing problem, and could be treated by your doctor. Even if you decide you want to try a private hearing aid, it is always a good idea to see your doctor (GP) first.
Your doctor will examine your ears using a special instrument called an Otoscope, and may use a tuning fork. He may perform a simple screening test, by whispering words behind you and then asking you if you can hear anything.
The doctor will ask you questions about how the hearing loss developed and the sort of problems it causes. The doctor may be able to refer you for an in-surgery hearing-test. Usually you will be referred to an audiology clinic or an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department of your local hospital, to have a hearing test and see if a hearing aid could help.
A hearing test is performed by an audiologist/audiology technician using an audiometer. An audiometer produces sounds of different frequencies(pitch) at different levels of loudness. You will listen to these sounds through a set of headphones and usually be asked to press a button every time you hear a sound. The audiologist will record the softest sound you hear at each frequency, so you must press for every sound you hear, even if it is very quiet. The sound recorded is known as your hearing threshold.
Sometimes a test is performed where the audiologist makes the sounds louder. This test is done to find out the level where the sounds become uncomfortable for you to listen to. This can give important information and can help with the programming of the hearing aid.
A second test is usually performed called Bone Conduction. This involves putting a headband with a vibrating pad, which transmits sounds through the bones of your skull to the inner ear. The headband may be a little tight. This is very important when diagnosing a hearing loss, as when compared to the headphone test will show any problems you may have with your eardrum or middle ear. The hearing test results are recorded on an audiogram chart. and the audiologist or ENT Consultant, will explain and discuss what it shows, and whether a hearing aid would help.
You may need a different treatment and further tests may be offered.
If you have been diagnosed with a hearing loss and a doctor has recommended that you try a hearing aid, what should you do?
You have basically two options.
1. You could ask the doctor to refer you for a NHS hearing aid.
2. You could try a private hearing aid.
If you decide you want to try a private hearing aid and you want to ask my advice, please contact me.
I will make an appointment to see you in your home or arrange to meet you in my clinic held in a Private Hospital.
At this first visit, I will ask you about your hearing loss, and about any problems you are having. Then I will examine your ears and perform a hearing test.
Technology is evolving all the time and digital hearing aids can now help more complicated types of hearing loss. We will discuss the type of hearing aid you would like and the suitability of the particular styles considering your hearing loss and life style.
Once a hearing aid has been chosen by you, a fitting appointment will be arranged, hopefully within two weeks of the first visit.
You will be asked to pay a deposit on fitting, but will then have a month trial of the hearing aid, to see how you get on in the real world. Any problems or questions you have within this month trial, you may contact me, or if you feel that you need further help, an appointment will be made.