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What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss affects 1 in 6 people with varying degrees of impairment. Hearing loss can be caused by many different things such as age, noise and injury and each person experiences hearing loss in a unique way.

A hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive or mixed. A sensorineural hearing loss is the result of damage to the hair cells in the cochlear or damage to the nerve that leads to the brain.

A conductive hearing loss is caused when sounds are unable to reach the inner ear from the outer ear. A conductive hearing loss can be caused by middle ear problems such as wax build up, a disorder with the middle ear bones or the ear drum.

A mixed hearing loss is caused by a combination of both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.

If you are found to have a hearing loss, your audiologist will discuss with you the type of hearing loss that you have and will advise you on the most appropriate management plan.

Managing a hearing loss is dependent on the cause and severity of the hearing loss.

Hearing aids can be used to improve clarity of speech and awareness of sound as well as to manage tinnitus. An audiologist can advise you if you could benefit from a hearing aid. The hearing aids will be set up to your individual needs and hearing loss.

Sometimes, additional devices are helpful to patients. Additional devices can help to give your hearing aids an extra boost if you have difficulty when you are in a noisy environment, watching the television or on the telephone. If you are interested in additional devices and you have hearing aids that were given to you at the Royal Stoke hospital, please follow this link.

If you are in employment where you have difficulty with some situations, you may be eligible for a government grant that enables you to receive funding to purchase some additional devices that can help you to fulfil your duties more efficiently. More information can be found on the government Access to Work webpage.

Using good communication tactics can help to improve communication between friends and family, with or without hearing aids. Good communication tactics to use with everybody include:

  • Getting the person’s attention before you start talking them
  • Talking slowly and clearly without raising your voice
  • Have conversations in the same room (don’t talk from another room)
  • Make sure that the person is facing you before you begin to talk
  • If the person asks for repetition, try using different words to explain your point- it is often one key word in the sentence that is causing the need for repetition!

Tinnitus is the perception of an external sound that is not external. It can be described as many different sounds such as a high pitched tone, a buzzing sound, a hissing sound and can also be musical. It can also sound a bit like your pulse. It can come and go or be there all of the time and can be in one ear, both ears, or it may sound like it is inside your head.

Tinnitus is common in the general population (about 30% of people get tinnitus at some point in their life (British Tinnitus Association)) and it is more common in those with a hearing loss. If your tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, a hearing aid can be the best way to manage it.

Tinnitus is not always associated with hearing loss and can be found in people with normal hearing however, it is usually the result of some change- physically or mentally such as stress or feeling under the weather. Tinnitus is rarely the symptom of a serious disorder but if you feel worried about this, then your GP will be able to advise you on the next step to take.

The brain is usually able to “filter out” what is not important or interesting to it such as a ticking clock or background noise. When there is a change in the body, for example, wax blocking the ears, the brain tries to get more information from the ears - this extra information that the brain receives can be perceived as tinnitus.

Most people with tinnitus can go about their day-to-day activities and find that their tinnitus settles down. However, sometimes, tinnitus can be particularly distressing. If you are finding it difficult to manage tinnitus, get a referral from your GP to Audiology so that we are able to offer you advice on how to manage your tinnitus.

Find out more about tinnitus and hearing therapy here.

An audiologist will ask some questions relating to your hearing and the difficulties that you are having. We understand that each patient is unique in the way that they experience their hearing impairment and the difficulties that they have day-to-day. We will be on hand with a listening ear to ensure that we have all of the information that we need to manage your hearing and any difficulties that you may be having.

During a face to face appointment, your ears will be examined to make sure that they are free from wax so that a hearing test can be performed. Other tests may be performed to test the health of your middle ear. Your hearing will be tested to determine if there is a hearing loss present and if it is in one or both of your ears. Another referral to Ear Nose and Throat may be necessary if further investigation is required to see what has caused your hearing difficulties.

Your audiologist will be able to advise you if you could benefit from a hearing aid. If you decide that a hearing aid would be helpful for you then it will be programmed to suit your hearing loss and your needs.