Hearing loss most commonly occurs when the bundles of tiny hairs within the inner ear become damaged. These tiny hairs are essential for converting sound vibrations into the electrical signals which the brain interprets as sounds. Over the years, however, attrition of both the cells and their hair bundles leads to hearing loss. On average, about 30 percent of those over 65, and about 50 percent of those over 75, are affected in this way.
There are many causes of hearing loss but the most common, presbyacusis, which is also known as age-related Sensorineural Hearing Loss, occurs slowly as we age. The hearing normally deteriorates as a result of exposure to loud sounds, experienced throughout our lives. Presbyacusis usually affects both ears equally and the hearing loss is most marked at higher frequencies.
This damage to the hearing nerves accounts for approximately 95% of all hearing losses and is generally permanent. It cannot be treated medically but it can be remedied successfully with the use of digital hearing aids.
A second kind of hearing loss, known as Conductive Hearing Loss, occurs when sound is not being transmitted properly to the inner ear due to a ‘mechanical’ problem of some kind. It is often the result of damage or blockage in the outer or middle ear. In most cases, conductive hearing problems can be corrected medically.
There can also be elements of both a Sensorineural and a Conductive hearing loss and this is known as a Mixed Hearing Loss.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
We may notice hearing loss for the first time when we are in a crowd, such as at a party, where there is a lot of background noise, and particularly when trying to hear someone else speaking. But, there are many other common signs, such as:
- Not hearing the doorbell or a telephone ring.
- Turning the television up too loud for the comfort of others
- Not hearing people come into the room
- Misunderstanding what has been said
- Not speaking clearly or speaking in a monotonous tone
- Uncertainty about where sounds are coming from
- Difficulty in hearing at a distance e.g. in church or public gatherings.
Here are a few examples of what customers have told us about recognising the symptoms of hearing loss
“I don’t hear very well in meetings and group situations.”
“I find restaurants and social situations challenging.”
“My family and friends comment that I have misheard or misunderstood conversation”
“I find some accents difficult to follow, especially on the television or telephone.”
“I find people mumble.”
“Television presenters aren’t trained to speak the way they used to be.”
“If people spoke clearly I would be able to understand them.”
“I am okay when it is a one-to-one conversation.”
If you find yourself agreeing with any of the above statements, you should ask for a free hearing test in order to determine how well your hearing is working and allay any concerns you might have.