Hearing problems come in all shapes and sizes. Some hearing problems have an underlying medical cause. We are trained to pick up these problems, and will refer you to your GP immediately if there is any concern. Other hearing problems are just down to “wear and tear” – either due to exposure to loud sounds, or simply the passage of time, or a combination of the two.
Here are some common types of hearing loss.
Exposure to very loud sounds can lead to extra wear and tear on the delicate structures in the inner ear. In most cases the exposure to loud sounds happens over many years. People that are typically affected are those that worked in loud factories, military personnel and other marksmen, and musicians. Today there is much more awareness of the long term effects of loud sounds, but unfortunately it wasn’t always so. In modern society we have a relatively new problem of exposure to loud music. One too many excessively loud rock concerts and headphones turned up too loud are putting people of all ages at risk.
This is a technical term for hearing loss due to ageing. It is by far the most common type of hearing loss. Mostly the inner ear is affected, and the high tones (birds chirping etc) go first. But other parts of the ear can be affected too, so there is no single pattern. The good news is that this type of hearing problem responds extremely well to intervention with hearing technology. So there is nothing stopping you from continuing to do all the things you enjoy.
Conductive Hearing Loss
If you’ve ever had a cold and felt like your ears were blocked up, you probably had a temporary conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss mostly affects the middle part of the ear, which is connected to the back of the throat via a passage called the Eustachian tube. Ear infections associated with colds and flu are the most common culprit. Most conductive hearing loss is temporary and treatable with medication, but there are some conditions that are more serious and require specialist intervention from an Ear Nose and Throat specialist. If in doubt, get your hearing checked sooner rather than later!
Many people think that their hearing problems are down to excess ear wax, but in fact that is seldom the case. Ear wax build up is a problem for some people, but even with a lot of ear wax usually there is enough of a gap for sound to get through. For excess ear wax to cause a hearing loss it has to have built up over a long time and become hard and impacted.
If you do have excess build up of wax, it is nonetheless a good idea to have it removed regularly. Some GP surgeries offer ear irrigation, or you can come to us to have it removed with a special technique called micro suction.
Sudden Hearing Loss and Other Medical Conditions
Changes in hearing usually happen gradually over time, and more-or-less the same in both ears. A sudden change in hearing most often is due to an underlying medical cause and should be addressed immediately. Please contact your GP or out of hours service straight away if you notice any of the following:
- Sudden drop in hearing
- Hearing problem only in one ear (even if it has come on gradually)
- Sudden onset of tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Tinnitus that ‘pulses’ or is only in one ear