Hearing problems are more prevalent than you might think in the UK. According to charity group Action on Hearing Loss, over 10 million people in the UK – one in six of the population – are living with some form of hearing impairment. This shows that hearing loss is not just an age-related issue – everyone should be mindful of the symptoms of hearing impairment and know what action to take.
This guide will outline some of things to look out for if you’re worried about your hearing, and what options you have should you find your ears are beginning to fail you.
How’s your hearing?
Hearing loss can be caused by infections, accidents, or exposure to severe noise, but in most cases it is a slow, degenerative process, which can make it difficult to notice that there is a problem.
The NHS has outlined some scenarios where you may be able to self-diagnose some hearing loss, such as:
- Do you have difficulty hearing over the telephone?
- Do you have difficulty listening when more than one person in the room is talking?
- Do other people complain about the volume of your music or television?
- Do you have to concentrate quite hard to understand the other person when you are having a conversation?
If you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to some of the questions here, you should visit your GP for a proper diagnosis as soon as possible. It is unwise to ignore these symptoms, as sometimes hearing loss can be caused by a temporary infection or build-up of earwax that can be treated easily; left untreated, however, it could lead to a more permanent problem.
Many UK adults will be eligible for a hearing aid through the NHS, but as you may expect, this is dependent on the level of hearing loss you have and is limited to basic devices. It is also worth taking a free hearing test and consultation with an independent provider such as Amplifon, so that you have a full picture of your options.
There are three main types of hearing aid, and there are pros and cons for each:
The amplifier and battery sit in a curved which rests behind the outer ear, while a thin tube connects this to the in-ear receiver.
Pros: Can treat all levels of hearing loss, easy-access controls, easy to maintain, suitable for those who feel uncomfortable with things in their ear canal.
Cons: Amplifier and battery case is visible – not aesthetically pleasing to many.
These devices are like small ear plugs, moulded to fit the shape of the ear and sit flush with the outer ear.
Pros: Moulded to shape for snug fit, accessible controls, capable of treating all degrees of hearing loss
Cons: Aesthetically unpleasant to some, while not everyone can tolerate something sitting snugly in their outer ear all the time
Tiny hearing devices which sit inside the ear canal, also known as invisible hearing aids.
Pros: Essentially invisible to others, cutting-edge technology to help isolate specific sounds
Cons: More expensive, some have ear canals which are too small to accommodate these devices