At the Hearing Centre, often the first thing our patients want to know when they are having hearing problems is whether the damage to their hearing is likely to be permanent. However, this usually depends on the nature of the hearing problem.
The good news is that many cases of hearing loss are temporary. However, if an ear test identifies that your ear damage is permanent, our audiologists can recommend the best way to treat the problem, including using the latest technology in hearing aids.
Here, Hearing Centre audiologist Claire Marshall looks at some common causes of ear damage and their possible long term consequences.
Infection, illness or blockage
When loss of hearing is found to be caused by an ear infection such as swimmer’s ear or a build-up of wax inside the ear canal, this is a type of what audiologists call conductive hearing loss. It happens when sound waves are blocked from passing from the outer and middle ear through to the inner ear. The good news is that when the obstruction is removed, for example by treating an ear infection or removing earwax, hearing will be restored to its previous levels.
Those suffering from hearing loss caused by earwax build-up in the Loughborough area can book an appointment at the Hearing Centre for our professional microsuction earwax removal service, which is designed to safely and painlessly remove problematic earwax from your ears. Using video otoscopy, we will show you the build-up of wax before removing it.
Although the effects of ear infections are rarely permanent, ear infections are common, particularly amongst children. When ear infections are caused by a virus, an improvement in overall health can reduce susceptibility to them. When ear infections happen as a result of bacteria, such as swimming in bacteria-contaminated water, there are steps you can take to prevent the bacteria entering your ears, like making sure you dry them carefully after exposure to water.
Another cause of hearing loss that tends to occur in one ear only is Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can also cause vertigo and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear). There is no cure for Meniere’s disease but it can be controlled with medication,
Other ear problems that can damage hearing include glue ear which is caused by a build-up of fluid behind the ear drum and usually goes away on its own. A bony growth known as otosclerosis and cholesteatoma, which is a build-up of skin cells, can also cause hearing loss in one ear. Both of these conditions can be treated with surgery.
Noise-induced hearing loss caused by a sudden noise
If you experience sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears after exposure to a loud noise, it’s important to make an appointment to see an audiologist as soon as possible. In many cases, hearing will start to return to normal within 16 – 48 hours of being exposed to the sound. However, even if your hearing feels like it’s returned to normal levels before your appointment, it’s important to attend anyway. This is because there could be residual hearing problems associated with exposure to the noise.
It’s possible that an extremely loud noise such as an explosion can cause permanent damage to hearing if the eardrum is ruptured or the noise causes damage to the bones in the middle ear. This kind of exposure to loud noise can also cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can subside over time, continue constantly or come and go. Many tinnitus sufferers notice that their symptoms get worse at times of stress or tiredness.
At the Hearing Centre we use our state of the art equipment and specialist skills to diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action to help reduce symptoms and restore quality of life.
Noise-induced hearing loss caused by exposure to noise over time
Thankfully, due to modern health & safety laws, losing hearing due to a noisy working environment (whether it’s a concert hall or a construction site), is becoming a thing of the past. That said, some people do still neglect to wear the appropriate ear protection when working in noisy workshops or other loud environments and over time this constant exposure to loud noise can take its toll on the hearing.
Equally, people who make a habit of exposing themselves to loud music either at gigs or through turning their headphones up too high will also make themselves vulnerable to noise- induced hearing loss. Most smartphones now have a warning signal when the volume is too high and it’s important to remain below the recommended noise level.
Gradual noise-induced hearing loss can also affect one or both ears. Because it can happen slowly, sometimes people don’t notice any symptoms until the hearing loss is quite pronounced. Warning signs to look out for include:
- Difficulty following conversations, particularly in noisy environments like bars and restaurants.
- Other people commenting that you are turning up the TV or radio louder than you used to.
- Problems hearing what other people are saying on the phone.
- Having to ask people to repeat what they are saying as their voice sounds indistinct or muffled.
Age-induced hearing loss
Sadly, age-induced hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is natural part of the ageing process. However, it’s surprising how many people put up with not being able to hear as well as they used to in a way they wouldn’t tolerate if it was their eyesight that was affected. Again, because it can happen slowly over a long period of time, many people take a while to realise there is a problem. However, if you find yourself constantly thinking people are mumbling, restaurants are too noisy and TV shows are hard to hear, then it’s time to book an assessment with one of our audiologists.
There is no cure for age-related hearing loss, however, we can recommend a wide range of hearing aids including bone anchored hearing systems (BAHA) to improve your hearing and quality of life. Also, it’s important to remember that modern hearing aids are small, discreet and barely noticeable in your ear.
Have your ear damage assessed at the Hearing Centre
No GP referral is required to get an appointment at the Hearing Centre. To book an appointment please call 0116 254 3909 or fill in our online booking form.