Around one in six people in the UK are affected by hearing loss—what are the main warning signs, risk factors and preventatives?
A common problem, hearing loss is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. It usually develops gradually with age but can also be caused by repeated exposure to loud noises.
Being aware of the most common signs of hearing loss which can help identify the problem quickly. These can include difficulty hearing other people, watching television or listening to music on high volume, regularly feeling tired from having to concentrate while listening to people or sounds, difficulty discerning which direction noises come from or hearing doorbells and telephones. If, on the other hand, you notice a constant buzzing or whistling sound in your ears, this could be a sign of tinnitus—a condition associated with hearing loss.
Although it isn’t always possible to prevent hearing loss—as some individuals may have underlying conditions that cause them to lose their hearing—there are a few precautions we can all take to minimise our risk. These include using ear protection at music events or loud work environments and controlling the volume on electrical devices such as televisions, radios and mobile phones.
Treating hearing loss will largely depend on the severity and cause of the problem. Sensorineural hearing loss—which is caused by damage to the hair cells inside the ear or auditory nerve—can be treated with digital hearing aids, bone anchored implants, middle ear implants and cochlear implants. Conductive hearing loss, which is sometimes temporary, can be treated with medication or minor surgery.