Hearing Loss - an overview
Hearing loss is a more common problem than many people realise, affecting more than ten million people in the UK alone. Figures from Action on Hearing Loss indicate that this statistic could rise to 14.5 million by 2031, making it more important than ever for people to recognise the symptoms and take action.
Symptoms of hearing loss
What many people do not realise is that there are many different symptoms of hearing loss and some are more identifiable than others.
Some sufferers report that their hearing suddenly becomes muffled - alternatively, the individual may find they suffer from tinnitus, which manifests itself as a persistent noise in the ear.
The person may also find it more difficult to hear what other people are saying to them, or they might be listening to the television or radio louder than usual. Ultimately, this could lead them to avoid social situations as it becomes more problematic to hear.
Understanding hearing loss
There are various causes of hearing loss, but the most common of all is age. More than 70 per cent of people over the age of 70 have some sort of hearing loss, with the symptoms usually beginning to emerge gradually.
Another major cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. This can arise in work or leisure environments. Standing next to speakers can gradually take its toll on the ears, as can exposure to loud machinery.
In some cases, symptoms will arise due to problems inside the ear. For example, the external ear may become obstructed or infected.
Types of hearing loss
The two main categories of hearing loss are conductive and sensorineural. The former refers to any condition that disrupts the transmission of sound through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. These problems are generally treatable.
Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, arises when damage is caused to the inner ear and more specifically the acoustic nerve.
Treatments for hearing loss
Hearing loss remains a main area of study for scientists all over the world. Although there is no real cure for deafness, there are treatments available to help reduce the symptoms.
Hearing aids are a popular means of coping with hearing loss - these days they are available in a range of shapes, sizes and functions, depending on what the health professional recommends.
In some cases, surgery may be used to treat hearing loss if it is due to an infection.