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Ears Nose and Throat 2019

Losing your hearing? Let’s lose the stigma too


Gordon Harrison

Chief Audiologist, Specsavers

Hearing loss is surprisingly common. Factors such as age, lifestyle, job and hobbies as well as where you live can all play a part, which is why Specsavers encourages everyone to look after their ears.

Some hearing loss – such as that caused by a build-up of wax, or ear infections, can be reversible. However, noise-induced and age-related are two of the most common types of permanent hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when noise damages the hairs in the ear that help you hear which, as result, don’t grow back. And age-related hearing loss is caused by natural changes that happen to the inner ear as you get older.

You do not need to let hearing loss affect your quality of life.

Over 55s should test their hearing every two years

That is why, for those aged over 55, audiologists recommend you have your hearing tested every two years – even if you do not think there is anything necessarily wrong.

Gordon Harrison, Specsavers chief audiologist, says: “While hearing loss can sometimes be sudden, more often than not there is a gradual decline as we age, which many people do not notice at first.”

Signs that your hearing may be deteriorating

“While it can be hard to initially recognise, there are some tell-tale signs that may indicate that your hearing has worsened. For example, having to increase the volume of your television, if you feel like those around you are mumbling or if you struggle to carry out a conversation in a noisy place, could all indicate a decrease in hearing quality.

“Having to ask people to keep repeating themselves in person or during telephone conversations as well as your friends and family making comments about your hearing could also suggest there may be a problem too,”says Harrison.

How audiologists test your hearing – what to expect

As everybody’s hearing is different, a number of techniques and the latest technology allows audiologists to tailor hearing care to an individual’s needs.

After asking a series of questions to understand any areas of difficulty, what family members have been saying, as well as taking into consideration medical history and lifestyle, audiologists will look inside the ears to check the health of the ear drums and ear canal.

You will then undergo a hearing test where you will be asked to wear a set of headphones and press a button each time you hear a sound. These will be a mix of different volumes and pitches. The results of the test are then plotted on an audiogram and recommendations, such as hearing aids, are made based on levels of loss.

We need to normalise hearing aids

You do not need to let hearing loss affect your quality of life. It’s really important that we normalise hearing loss and remove the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. After all, many people wear glasses to help with their eyesight, so why should our hearing be any different?

“Of course, just like contact lenses or spectacles, wearing a hearing aid can feel strange at first,” says Gordon.

“There will need to be a period of adjustment. However, give yourself some time to get used to it and this will change. Your audiologist will be happy to assist in the unlikely event you experience any problems or pain.

Hearing aids are discrete these days

“Hearing aids are the most discreet they have ever been. Technology is becoming so advanced that many now enable you to control their settings from your mobile phone.

Because of this, the stigma around wearing hearing aids has reduced significantly in recent years. It is definitely not something to be embarrassed about and you might find many of your friends and family don’t even notice you’re wearing a hearing aid at first.”

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