Hearing loss affects many people in the UK, both old and young. While it’s generally considered to be something that happens as a result of aging, there are plenty of things we can do to keep our hearing at optimum levels for as long as possible, as our hearing abilities are determined by noise exposure throughout our lifetimes. Here, we’ve put together a guide on how to protect yourself and your family, and how to prevent hearing issues from occurring.
There are a number of ways to keep our ears protected, but the biggest one by far is noise levels. Noises over 85 decibels can contribute to permanent hearing loss – you may experience this briefly when you pass road works in the street, but the real danger is in prolonged exposure. This includes things like flying on a plane, going to concerts and operating some heavy machinery, so you should ensure that you have earplugs available to you, especially in the workplace. Listening to music through headphones can also have a similar effect, as it’s all too tempting to turn them up while you’re walking around, so try to find headphones which prevent you from turning the volume up too high.
When looking for symptoms of hearing loss in your family, it’s important that you’re also aware of your own risk. Common symptoms in adult hearing loss include struggling to follow everyday conversation, subconscious avoidance of social situations due to difficulty hearing in large groups, and occasionally anxiety and frustration. These symptoms occur because hearing loss happens to slowly that you often don’t realise it is happening, and consequently don’t understand why conversation is more stressful.
Children may not be able to express that they are having difficulty hearing, so you will have to look out for clues. Babies in particular may not respond to sounds, and may not have different cries for different needs as most small children do. In older children, hearing loss can cause academic problems, headaches and a perceived lack of attention. Have their hearing tested by a specialist if you are unsure – hearing aid specialists Amplifon offer free hearing tests across the UK, if you’re not sure where to look.
Treatment for hearing loss is dependent on the type of impairment you have. Conductive hearing loss is usually a result of disorders in the middle or outer ear, blocking sound from the inner ear – this could be anything from an infection to dislocation of a bone, and can usually be unblocked with medication or a small surgical procedure. Sensorineural hearing loss is far more significant as it is permanent, and occurs when the inner ear nerves are too damaged to transfer noise signals to the brain. This is usually treated using hearing aids, which are available for both adults and children. These small devices comprise of a microphone, amplifier, loudspeaker and a battery, and work by directing sound directly into the ear canal.
It’s always recommended that you speak to a doctor or audiologist if you have any concerns, but this guide should give you an idea of what to look for – and how to prevent you or your family experiencing early hearing loss.