There are around 11 million people across the UK with hearing loss – the partial or total inability to hear in one or both ears. Furthermore, of the 1 in 6 of the UK adult population affected by hearing loss, 8 million of these are aged 60 and over. Also, while 6.7 million could benefit from hearing aids only about 2 million people use them. There are a number of different reasons why someone might be deaf or lose their hearing. Age, prolonged exposure to loud noise or genetics are all common factors.
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Audiologists are healthcare professionals that specialise in identifying, diagnosing, treating, and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear. They are trained to diagnose, manage, and treat a variety of hearing-related conditions, including tinnitus, hyperacusis, hearing loss, and balance problems.
In addition, audiologists are trained to assist with the rehabilitation of the auditory system – probably the most important part of using hearing instruments successfully in the long term. They can also assess candidacy for cochlear implants and map implants
Our audiologists at Girlings Complete Hearing are fully trained, expert hearing practitioners registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). We are members of The British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA) and are Registered Hearing Aid Dispensers (RHAD). Girlings is an independent, family-run business, offering impartial advice and we have more than thirty years’ experience in every aspect of hearing health.
‘Deafness’ usually implies a severe or profound hearing loss that only affects a minority of the hearing-impaired population. ‘Hearing loss’ is the general term to describe a lower ability to hear sounds than the average person. Unlike deafness, hearing loss can be treated by amplification or hearing aids.
Noise plays a major role in hearing loss. In fact, frequent exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, because high-decibel noises can permanently damage the inner ear. It also contributes to tinnitus (a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound in the ears). Some people experience both hearing loss and tinnitus due to a combination of noise exposure and advanced age. We measure the intensity, or loudness, of a sound in units called decibels (dB).
Noise-induced hearing loss is usually preventable. The intensity of volume and length of your exposure to it will impact the severity of damage caused. To protect your hearing, avoid noises at or above 85 dB, remembering to wear ear defenders when operating domestic or commercial machinery. Reduce the sound if you can, or wear ear protection if you cannot. For example, lower the volume on personal stereo systems and televisions. When you cannot escape or reduce noise, wear earplugs or other hearing protection devices. Parents should protect their children’s ears as well.
Some medications can cause irreversible damage to your hearing, while others can cause short-term hearing issues. If you take any medications, ask your doctor if they are ototoxic, or potentially damaging to the ear. If you do take an ototoxic medication, ask if your doctor can substitute another medication or safely reduce your dosage.
At Girlings, we will always screen you for your medical history and current medications before we undertake an examination of your ears, including for microsuction.
If you are suffering from tinnitus (a ringing/buzzing in your ears) then your first step is to seek the advice of your GP. However, if you also have a hearing loss then your audiologist can advise about suitable hearing aids to help you manage your tinnitus more effectively.
Other factors that can influence hearing loss include the following:
- Ear infections
- Blood vessel diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Infections such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles
- Traumatic injuries
- Ménière’s disease
- Cancerous growths in the inner ear
Since hearing loss can occur at any stage of life and has many different causes, you may be unaware that you suffer from it. If you can answer ‘yes’ to three or more of the questions below, then it is advised to consult an audiologist and schedule a hearing test so that you can identify the issue and explore possible solutions.
- Do you have trouble hearing on the telephone?
- Do you struggle to hear when there is background noise?
- Is it hard for you to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?
- Do you have to strain to understand a conversation?
- Do you often feel like people are mumbling or not speaking clearly?
- Do you sometimes misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
- Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do you understand more of what is being said if you are looking at the person speaking to you?
- Do you hear well in one-to-one situations but feel left out of the conversation in groups?
- Do you have trouble understanding softly spoken adults or children when they talk?
- Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
- Do you often hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound in your ears?
- Do some sounds seem excessively loud?
This is a misconception. Hearing loss can occur at any time, at any age. In fact, 42% of over 50s in the UK will have some degree of hearing loss. If you are struggling to hear in certain situations then, regardless of your age, it’s important you contact an audiologist for advice.
Not necessarily. Since most people with hearing impairments hear perfectly well in quiet environments (like a GP surgery), it can be very difficult for a doctor to recognise the problem. So, if you believe you may suffer from hearing loss, it’s important you consult an audiologist. Only a trained hearing professional can determine the severity of your hearing problem, decide whether or not you could benefit from a hearing aid, and determine which type of hearing device or treatment best suits you.
A basic hearing test will measure the quietest sounds that you can hear across a range of frequencies or pitches, from low to high. Additional information, such as how rapidly sounds become loud for you, or your ability to hear speech or speech sounds, can also be undertaken, if necessary.
An audiogram is a graph, which plots the quietest level that you can hear at each frequency tested. This is your hearing threshold. In a hearing test, the audiologist will test your hearing at a range of frequencies typically from 250Hz to 8000Hz.
If you feel your hearing is not as good as it once was, or you are struggling to hear, whether in quiet or just in noisy situations, or if you need the volume on the TV turned up, these are signs that it would be worth having your hearing tested. People’s experience shows us that it is much easier to get used to a hearing aid at an early stage, rather than waiting until it may become worse.
To create a personalised hearing aid, an ear mould impression must be made of the ear. Although the process may feel slightly awkward, it will not hurt, and it will only take a few minutes. This mould is then used to create the custom-fitted hearing aid.
It is very important you have your hearing checked out if one side deteriorates. Although rare, there are some serious causes of one-sided (often called single-sided or unilateral) deafness which may need to be ruled out. If you lose your hearing suddenly, you should contact your GP straight away.
Your GP will refer you to your local NHS service or local audiologist. Health visitors and other health professionals can also sometimes refer, depending on local policy. If you want to have your hearing tested privately, you can also refer yourself directly to an independent audiologist such as Girlings Complete Hearing Service.
Once you have had your hearing tested, your audiologist will recommend whether a hearing aid might be useful for you. At Girlings we have access to the very latest hearing technology to suit every situation and your own lifestyle.
There are two types of hearing implants available, to suit different types of hearing loss.
Hearing (cochlear) implants are small electronic devices which are placed behind the ear, under the skin, by a surgeon. The cochlear implant picks up sounds, transforms them into electrical signals, and then sends them past the non-working part of the inner ear so that they can reach the brain.
Alternatively, Bone Anchored Hearing Aids are available which are also surgically implanted.
For most people with hearing loss, a hearing aid proves helpful enough that a cochlear implant is unnecessary. However, if you suffer from profound hearing loss and your hearing aid is insufficient, your GP, ENT consultant or private audiologist will conduct a hearing test and assess your candidacy for a cochlear implant.
People with hearing loss often struggle to fully participate in everyday life. They may mistake words in a conversation, miss directions or warnings, or leave a ringing doorbell unanswered.
Older people who cannot hear well may experience depression or choose to withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed that they cannot understand what is being said. In addition, they may become suspicious of relatives or friends who they believe “mumble” or “don’t speak up” on purpose. Hearing loss can isolate older people and may even put them in harm’s way if they are unable to respond to warnings or hear sounds of impending danger. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that an older person is confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative because they do not hear well.
Hearing aid users sometimes express issues with their devices and your audiologist is there to help. The most common issues include:
My own voice sounds strange: Hearing aids amplify some or all sounds, including the sound of your own voice. Typically, this becomes less noticeable with time and use. If it bothers you, ask your audiologist for help.
My hearing aid produces whistling sounds or feedback: Hearing aids produce whistling sounds or ‘feedback’ for several different reasons, all of which are easily resolved. The most frequent cause is excess ear wax, which we can safely and effectively rectify using microsuction.
If your hearing aid fits too loosely, it may allow the amplified sound to escape from your ear, in which case the microphone receives this sound, causing feedback. Secondly, you may receive feedback if you stand too close to a surface that reflects sound, such as a wall.
Finally, some feedback problems occur because the user turns the device’s volume control too high. You can easily remedy most of these feedback problems on your own. If you continue to experience problems with feedback or whistling sounds, consult an audiologist and bring your hearing aids to the consultation. We can help you find a solution.
I feel pressure in my ear when I wear a hearing aid: If excess air becomes trapped between your eardrum and your hearing aid, you may experience a sensation of pressure. A hearing professional can alter your device to alleviate the problem if it persists.
When selecting a hearing aid, you will need to take several factors into consideration to find the right device for you. For example, think about the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, the activities you enjoy, your job, your eyesight, and your dexterity. The size and shape of your outer ear and ear canal will also influence your options. At Girlings Complete Hearing we review all these factors and assess your test results to help you select the perfect hearing device.
A hearing aid is an electronic, battery-operated device that amplifies sound. Each hearing aid contains a microphone that converts sound into electrical signals. The amplifier increases the loudness of the signals and the speaker sends the sound to the ear.
It is important to remember that although hearing aids can make the best of the hearing you have remaining, they cannot physically alter your natural hearing mechanism or return your hearing to the way it was when you were younger or could hear well.
If you are deaf or have hearing loss, you may not think of yourself as having a disability. However, under the Equality Act 2010 you might be defined as disabled. This means you should have equal access and equality of opportunity without discrimination.
Like all batteries, the batteries used in hearing aids are toxic if swallowed. For this reason, you should keep all batteries away from children and pets. It’s important to find a safe place to store your batteries:
Do invest in a container with a snap-tight lid. Store it on a shelf (the higher the better – so long as you can reach it safely) or cupboard.
- Do store your batteries at room temperature. Heat shortens battery life and, contrary to popular opinion, battery life is not extended by storing them in the refrigeration.
- Do not store batteries next to metal objects, such as coins and keys. These are common items found in pockets and handbags.
Do not store your batteries with your medications. Many pills are the same size and shape as hearing aid batteries.