Of all the five senses, our hearing is perhaps the most precious. Deprived of this, we lose contact with the people we love and the world in general.
Why is hearing important?
Consider all the sounds you encounter, every single day: friends chatting, children laughing, a favourite song, a loving remark. It is this invigorating, informative symphony of sounds that makes life richer.
As well as helping us communicate and socialise, our sense of hearing helps to keep us safe. A fire alarm ringing, a car sounding its horn, or a child shouting “Help!” are just a few examples of vital signals that we need to be able to hear.
We rely on our hearing in so many ways, which is why we should treasure and protect it.
Others notice hearing loss first
Hearing loss can happen so slowly that the person affected is often the last one to know. Friends, co-workers or family members are likely to spot the problem before you do. They may say, “You're not listing to me”, or complain that the television is too loud. They may question why you don't react when a friend calls you, or when the doorbell rings.
The real problem is often not the condition itself. The fact we don't recognise hearing loss and rectify it sooner is the real issue. To avoid this from happening, you need to be able to recognise the signs of hearing loss and take the appropriate actions.
People get their eyes and teeth checked on a regular basis, so why not add your ears to this maintenance list? It takes less than an hour to assess your hearing health – and the sooner hearing loss is detected, the better.
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss is often associated with advancing age, but this is not always the case. Although it can strike people at any age, the condition most often appears after the age of 65; but it can also be caused by infections, injury or birth defects.
Age related hearing loss
As we get older we may lose the ability to hear softer, high-pitched sounds. Some of these sounds may be easy to live without, but losing some of the building blocks of speech can be a far greater challenge.
Noise induced hearing loss
This is often caused by over exposure to excessive noise. It threatens the hearing of military personnel, police officers, constructions workers, factory workers, farmers, dentists and nursery teachers – to name but a few. Rock concerts and MP3 players can also damage people’s hearing. Click here to browse our range of hearing protection equipment.
Types of hearing loss
In general there are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer and middle ear, which can prevent sounds getting through to the inner ear. The most common cause can be build-up of wax in the ear canal (click here for wax removal), perforated eardrums, fluid in the middle ear, or damaged/defective ossicles.
Sensorineural hearing loss
This type of hearing loss occurs when the delicate sensory cells or nerve fibres within the inner ear get damaged. This damage prevents/hinders the transmission of sound. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are the natural process of ageing or excessive exposure to noise. This condition, in most cases is permanent.
How hearing changes
Even with hearing loss you might feel that life sounds just as loud as ever. Some noises, such as a lawnmower, remain audible while other sounds become harder to hear.
A male voice may be easy to hear, whereas you may struggle to hear the voice of a woman or a child due to their softer higher pitch.
Our hearing deteriorates over time. Hearing loss starts during childhood, however because it happens so gradually it can be difficult to recognise.
By being aware of the causes of hearing loss, and knowing the signs to look out for, you can monitor your own reactions. If you find yourself struggling to follow along with a conversation, you will know it's time to get your hearing tested.
How we hear sounds
Sounds can be described as loud or soft, high-pitched or low-pitched.
Speech can become difficult to follow with hearing loss because it involves so many different sounds in a rapid flow. The softer, high-pitched consonants such as ‘F’, ‘s’ or ‘t’ can be drowned out by the louder, low-pitched vowel sounds such as ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’.
If someone says “statue” and all you can hear is “s_a_ue””, you will be forced to try and guess the rest – by which time the conversation will have moved on.
At meetings and social events there is nothing worse than having to ask people to repeat themselves. You may blame others for mumbling, when it is actually your hearing that is at fault.
With hearing loss, communication will become increasingly difficult; you may even decide to withdraw from social situations completely.
Hearing loss makes you isolated
We all want to feel in control of our lives. We all want closely knit families, loyal friends, active lifestyles and interesting pastimes. But when you allow a hearing loss to go untreated, you put all of these life qualities at risk.
You may start to experience all sorts of emotions from worry and embarrassment to sadness and loneliness. You will also feel tired and irritable from having to concentrate harder.
Left unattended, hearing loss can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
Luckily, things don't have to get out of control. Surveys show that treating a hearing loss has a positive impact on people's physical and emotional well-being. There is no doubt that taking the responsibility to look after your hearing will turn your life around.
Hearing loss affects others
Hearing loss does not only strike yourself; it affects the people with whom you interact. Whether through meaningful conversation or playful teasing, the exchange of ideas suddenly becomes slower and far more tedious.
Imaging having your best friends over for dinner. You try to follow what they’re saying, but their voices sound blurry. When they’re telling jokes you strain to catch the punch line; you laugh when they do but you didn’t really get it. In the end you just drift away.
Your partner and family are expected to show compassion and consideration, but they don’t really understand your problem and they may not always have the time or energy. Rather than waiting for them to run out of patience and push you into taking action, why not take the initiative and set the pace yourself!
Visiting one of our hearing specialists is a huge step towards better hearing, and the step is easier to take than you might think. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t hurt. To get the most out of you visit, take someone with you to keep you company and to help you remember what is being said.