Tuesday 24 April 2018

Your questions answered: Hearing

You may think your hearing is perfect, and it could well be. But your hearing can fade gradually, without you really noticing.

Q: How do we lose our hearing?

A: Exposure to loud sounds or prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing damage. Repeated exposure will lead to cumulative hearing loss. The bad news is everyone’s hearing will deteriorate at some stage. With age the hair cells in the inner ear lose their efficiency, affecting what we can hear. Typically we lose higher frequencies first, making it harder to distinguish speech from background sounds. Initial signs of hearing loss can include ringing in the ears.

Q: At what level can noise damage your hearing?

A: Sound is measured in Decibels. They are measured on a logarithmic scale - an increase from 80dB to 90dB doesn’t mean that the sound has increased by 10%, it means it has increased 10 fold – i.e. a sound at 90dB is 10 times louder than one at 80db.

Noise levels exceeding 105 dB can damage hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes. Here are some examples of the noise levels we experience in our day-today lives.


Noise type


The softest sound a person can hear with normal hearing


Normal conversation


Heavy traffic


Disco, nightclub, car horn or shouting in the ear


Personal music player (on loud)


Chain saw


Rock concert or ambulance siren

Q: How often should I have my hearing tested?

A: Experts recommend hearing tests every two years for those over 55, if any sort of hearing loss is detected annual tests should take place thereafter.

Q: I always have a build up of wax in my ear, can this be a problem?

A: Wax helps protect the ear canal and the eardrum. It usually migrates out of the ear by itself, but if a build up occurs it can block it. In extreme cases this could cause a mild hearing loss. But, once the wax is removed, the hearing is generally restored. If you think you have a build up of wax inside the ear, arrange to see your GP. Never attempt to remove it yourself.

Q: When my grandchildren use their MP3 players, I can hear the music – are they damaging their ears?

A: More and more people now own personal music players. Exposure to very loud sounds for prolonged periods can cause permanent damage. Noise levels exceeding 105 decibels can damage hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes. MP3 players can reach 112db, so there is a danger of hearing damage.

Q: I think my five-year-old granddaughter has a hearing problem. Can you help?

A: If you have any doubts about a young child’s hearing we recommend they see an audiologist at hospital – a referral can be made via your GP. Children often require a multitude of services depending on the level of hearing loss - including audiology and speech therapy - which the NHS can arrange.

Q - If I need a hearing aid does it mean I am deaf?

A - Hearing aids work by enhancing your existing hearing, so you need to have some level of hearing for an aid to work. And just as we all have different glasses prescriptions, we all need different kinds of hearing aids and levels of assistance.

Q - Are hearing aids ugly and uncomfortable?

A - Just look at mobile phones or cameras to see how far technology has evolved in recent years. Hearing aids are no different. Today’s models are slimmer, lighter and more discreet than ever before. As for comfort, hearing aids like glasses will be tailor-made to fit your ears.

Q - Will wearing a hearing aid make my hearing worse?

A - Most people with hearing loss suffer from it in both ears. But some only buy one hearing aid due to the cost, which can mean the other ear overcompensates and deteriorates as a result. We always check both ears to guarantee we provide you a balanced solution. Plus you don’t need to worry about the cost as we offer two hearing aids for the price of one.

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