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hidden hearing logoHearing loss can commonly develop with age. According to statistics, around one in five UK adults are thought to have some degree of hearing loss – including 40% of over 50s – making it the third most common health condition among adults.

While hearing loss can be frustrating and difficult to live with – particularly if it’s developed recently – it can be reassuring to know that there’s help and support out there. Many people find that simply gaining a better understanding of hearing loss can make symptoms easier to manage.

With this in mind, we’ve partnered with hearing care experts, Hidden Hearing, to explore some of the causes and signs of hearing loss, and where you can seek help. With over 280 local clinics and 97,000 customers, Hidden Hearing’s team of hearing care professionals are dedicated to helping more people hear better – and breaking the stigma around hearing aids.

What can cause hearing loss?

Age is the single-biggest cause of hearing loss, because changes to the inner ear occur naturally as we get older. But, there are a number of potential causes of hearing loss, including ear infections, injury, earwax build-up, and long-term damage from loud noise. Genetics can also play a role in how likely someone is to suffer from hearing loss.

According to the NHS, causes of hearing loss can be split into two types: sensorineural and conductive. However, it’s also possible to experience both types, which experts refer to as mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss happens as the result of damage to the auditory nerve (which sends sound signals to the brain) or the sensitive hair cells that line the inner ear. This can be caused by injury by long-term exposure to loud noises or occur naturally with age.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is where sounds are unable to pass from the outer ear to the inner ear – often due to a blockage, such as ear wax, a perforated eardrum, disorder of the hearing bones, or fluid build-up caused by an ear infection. Most cases of conductive hearing loss can be corrected with treatment like antibiotics or ear drops.

What are the signs of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can present itself in various ways, and depending on the cause, symptoms may vary from person to person. 

For example, experiencing itchiness and difficulty hearing in one ear could be a sign of an ear infection that can be treated with medication. And, in contrast, hearing that becomes more muffled over time may be caused by ageing or damage from frequent exposure to loud noise.

When it comes to age-related hearing loss, it’s also fairly common for people around you to notice problems with your hearing before you do.

Some of the most common signs of hearing loss include…

Difficulty following conversations

This may be particularly true when there’s background noise, group conversations where multiple people are talking at once, or over the phone when you can’t see people’s facial expressions and lip movements.

Struggling to locate where sounds are coming from

Hearing loss can sometimes make it difficult to work out where a sound is coming from, especially in noisy environments. This is particularly common in people with hearing loss in only one ear.

Turning the television up to a high volume

Friends and family may say that you have the TV volume too loud, but it doesn’t sound loud to you at all.

Feeling stressed or tired

Hearing loss can affect more than just your ability to hear. Due to the extra effort put into trying to hear, many people with hearing loss experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. 

Plus, according to Hidden Hearing, if left untreated, hearing loss can affect memory, mental sharpness, sociability, and even increase the risk of dementia.

Experiencing symptoms of tinnitus

Research has identified a strong link between tinnitus and damaged hearing. While tinnitus itself doesn’t cause hearing loss, the two conditions can often occur together. One theory for this is that tinnitus can be caused by specific damage to the inner ear – for example, that brought on by long-term exposure to loud noises. You can find out more about tinnitus in our article; Tinnitus – what it is, its causes, and ways to cope.

Where to seek help if you’re struggling with hearing loss

Where to seek help if you're struggling with hearing loss

According to Hidden Hearing, people in the UK wait an average of seven to 10 years before seeking treatment for hearing loss – with it often being friends and family encouraging them to get help. 

However, research shows that the earlier you seek help for hearing loss, the more effective your treatment is likely to be. It’s also been found that people who take action on their hearing loss earlier are typically happier, feel more empowered, have better relationships, and experience increased self-esteem. 

You can read first-hand about the benefits of seeking help for hearing loss in Lisa Beckwith’s story on Hidden Hearing. Lisa explains how it changed her life.

If you suspect that you might be suffering from hearing loss, it’s important to book a hearing test. Experts advise having your ears tested at least once every two years if you’re over 55 – and more often if you already have hearing loss.

Hidden Hearing offers a free hearing test service at their local clinics, which are dotted across the UK. The test offers same-day results, as well as a full consultation with a hearing care professional.

If you’d like to do a quick check at home too, Hidden Hearing also has an online hearing test. It only takes five minutes, and you’ll get your results straight away. However, it’s still important to get an in-person hearing test if you suspect you have hearing loss.

How is hearing loss treated?

How is hearing loss treated

If you have hearing loss, the treatment offered will depend on its cause. 

For example, hearing loss caused by an ear infection or build-up of earwax is often treated with antibiotics or ear drops. However, if you have more permanent hearing loss caused by ageing or long-term noise exposure, a specialist may recommend that you wear hearing aids or implants. 

Below, we’ll look at both hearing aids and implants in more detail.

Hearing aids and implants

While hearing aids won’t be able to restore your full hearing, they can make sounds louder and clearer and allow you to hear better. 

There are various types of hearing aids available, depending on your needs and preferences – for example, some are placed behind the ear while others are designed to be invisible and in-the-ear. 

If you’d like guidance on this, you might find Hidden Hearing’s guide to finding the right hearing aid for you, useful. Here you’ll find information on the basic types of hearing aids available, and the facts and features to consider when choosing the right type for your needs. 

Hidden Hearing also offers customers the option to test out high-quality hearing aids risk-free for 60 days – so if you’re not satisfied after 60 days, you can get a full refund. And, as part of their aftercare programme, you’ll receive a range of free, lifetime aftercare services to help you get the most out of your hearing aids.

3 ways to cope with hearing loss and protect your ears

Ways to cope with hearing loss and protect your ears

It can be difficult to adjust to living with hearing loss, particularly if it’s not something you’ve struggled with before. However, the good news is that there are things you can do to help make life easier and to protect your ears day-to-day.

For example, it can help to…

1. Protect your ears in loud environments

To prevent further damage to your hearing, it’s important to protect your ears. This includes limiting exposure to loud sounds where possible or wearing high-quality ear plugs or ear defenders in loud environments, like live music concerts. 

Ear plugs and ear defenders are available to buy on Amazon.

2. Wear your hearing aids

Many people find it difficult to accept treatment for their hearing loss – particularly if their symptoms are the result of age. This can be especially true if they’ve been advised to wear hearing aids or implants, which many people fear will be a visible sign of their hearing loss.

As found by this study, approximately 20% of UK adults don’t use their hearing aids at all, and another 30% only use them from time to time.

If this is something you struggle with, it can be useful to consider some of the many benefits of accepting treatment for hearing loss – such as being able to join in conversations with ease and taking care of your health long-term. Plus, we know from research that these changes can significantly improve quality of life. 

For example, in this study, since wearing a hearing aid, 92% of people reported improved social interactions, 96% experienced improved listening effort, and 60% had improved memory.

Hidden Hearing are on a mission to break the stigma of wearing hearing aids and make them as normal as wearing glasses. Check out their article, 4 common myths about hearing loss treatment that are no longer true – including the myth that hearing aids are too noticeable – for more information.

3. Let people know if you’re struggling

People with hearing loss don’t always tell other people that they’re struggling, because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. In some cases, this can lead to people feeling socially isolated or even depressed. 

However, it’s important to remember that people around you will be able to support you better if they’re aware that you’re struggling – for example, by taking steps to communicate more clearly. Very often, having supportive, positive people around can help to ease feelings of embarrassment or anxiety caused by hearing loss.

How to support a loved one who has hearing loss

It can sometimes feel difficult to talk about hearing loss with someone who’s struggling – particularly as it can be a sensitive topic for many people.

If you’d like some advice on how you can support people and approach conversations about hearing loss, you might find Hidden Hearing’s guide to helping someone with hearing loss useful. Here, you’ll also find information on useful habits that can make communication easier.

Final thoughts…

Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions among adults in the UK. It can be difficult and frustrating to live with and impact people’s confidence, self-esteem, and quality of life. 

If you’re currently struggling, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there’s help out there. Many people find that simply reaching out, seeking treatment, and gaining a better understanding of their condition makes all the difference. 

Hidden Hearing offers a range of services and resources that can help you navigate hearing loss and take control of your symptoms.

For further reading, head over to the general health section of our website where you’ll find everything from ways to boost lung and heart health to information on important health checks.

What are your experiences of hearing loss? Do you have any more tips that you’d like to share? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.