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Sounds good to me...

Hearing Loss is major public health issue that affects more than 11 million people across the UK.


How do we hear things? Sound waves enter the ear, go down the ear canal (auditory), and hit the eardrum, which vibrates. The vibrations from the eardrum pass to the three ossicles (bones called the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes) in the middle ear. These ossicles amplify the vibrations, which are then picked up by small hair-like cells in the cochlea; they move as the vibrations hit them, the movement data is sent through the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain processes the data, which we interpret as sound.



There are three main types of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss.

This means that the vibrations are not passing through from the outer ear to the inner ear, specifically the cochlea. It can be due to an excessive build-up of earwaxglue ear, an ear infection with inflammation and fluid build-up, a perforated eardrum, or a malfunction of the ossicles. Also, the eardrum may be defective. Ear infections can leave scar tissue which damages the functioning of the ear drum. The ossicles may be impaired due to infection, trauma, or their fusing together (alkalosis).

Sensor neural hearing loss.

Hearing loss is caused by dysfunction of the inner ear, the cochlea, auditory nerve, or brain damage. Usually, this kind of hearing loss is due to damage of the hair cells in the cochlea. As humans get older, the hair cells lose some of their function, and our hearing gets worse. In Western Europe and North America it is estimated that over half of all people over 70 years of age have hearing impairment caused by degenerated hair cells in the cochlea.

Long-term exposure to loud noises, especially high frequency sounds, is another common reason for hair cell damage. Damaged hair cells cannot be replaced. Currently, research is looking into using stem cells to grow new ones.

Sensor neural total deafness may be due to birth defects, inner ear infections, or head trauma. If the ear drum and middle ear are functioning properly, patients may benefit from a cochlear implant - a thin electrode is inserted in the cochlea, it stimulates electricity through a tiny microprocessor which is placed behind the ear, under the skin.

Mixed hearing loss.

This is a combination of conductive and sensor neural hearing loss. Long-term ear infections can damage both the ear drum as well as the ossicles. Sometimes, surgical intervention may restore hearing, but it does not always work.

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According to action on hearing loss. org (formerly RNID) action needs to be taken to improve the lives of people with hearing loss and to remove barriers in their way. Their recent report states that

Unaddressed Hearing Loss can have a serious impact on health and wellbeing.

  • People with hearing loss are more likely to experience emotional distress and loneliness.

  • Hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression.

  • People with hearing loss are at least twice as likely to develop dementia.

Hearing aids are a lifeline for many people. They help people communicate with friends and family, work colleagues and health and social care professionals and help people stay socially active and reduce the risk of depression and dementia. As the population ages, the number of older people with hearing loss is set to grow in the years to come. The earlier people seek help for their hearing loss the better, but statistics show that people will wait on average 10 years before they go their GP.

Our understanding of the causes of hearing loss and tinnitus is improving all the time. Action on hearing loss. org report that with further investment, drug treatments could be available by 2020 and cures found within a generation. Yet hearing research is the only area of medical research where public and charitable funding has declined over the last ten years.

People with hearing loss often struggle to access health and social care. When visiting the GP more than a quarter didn’t understand their diagnosis. There are many myths about deafness that in some cases cause some of us to make assumptions about interacting with people who have hearing loss or deficiency and this can be frustrating for everyone concerned.

Myths about deafness

Five common myths about deafness and people with a hearing loss

Sign language is a universal or international language

Deaf people are good lip readers

Hearing aids can restore hearing

If I shout the deaf person will hear me better

Deaf people only hear me when they feel like it.

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