Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 01:30 pm
Sound waves enter your ear and cause your eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations are passed to the three small bones (ossicles) inside your middle ear.
The ossicles amplify the vibrations and pass them on to your inner ear where tiny hair cells inside the cochlea (the coiled, spiral tube inside the inner ear) move in response to the vibrations and send a signal a nerve called the auditory nerve to the brain.
10 million people in UK with hearing impairment
It is estimated that there are more than 10 million (about 1 in 6) people in the UK with some degree of hearing impairment or deafness.
How does hearing loss occur?
Hearing loss can occur suddenly, but usually develops gradually. General signs of hearing loss can include:
- difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say
- asking people to repeat themselves
- listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up higher than other people require
When to see your GP about hearing loss
See your GP if you’re having problems with your hearing, or your child is showing signs of hearing difficulty. If you lose your hearing suddenly, in one or both ears, you must see your GP as soon as possible.
Your GP can check for any problems and may refer you to an audiologist (hearing specialist) or an ENT surgeon for further tests.
Why hearing loss happens
Hearing loss is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on where the problem lies:
- sensorineural hearing loss – caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve; this occurs naturally with age or as a result of injury
- conductive hearing loss – when sounds are unable to pass from your outer ear to your inner ear, often because of a blockage such as earwax, glue ear or a build-up of fluid from an ear infection, or because of a perforated ear drum or disorder of the hearing bones
It’s also possible to have both these types of hearing loss. This is known as mixed hearing loss.
Some people are born with hearing loss, but most cases develop as you get older.
Preventing hearing loss
It isn’t always possible to prevent hearing loss if you have an underlying condition that causes you to lose your hearing.
However, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of hearing loss from long-term exposure to loud noise. This includes not having music or the television on at a loud volume at home and using ear protection at loud music events or in noisy work environments.
You should also see your GP if you have signs of an ear infection, such as flu-like symptoms, severe earache, discharge or hearing loss.
Treating hearing loss
The way hearing loss is treated depends on the cause and how severe it is.
In cases of sensorineural hearing loss, there are several options that may help to improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate. These include:
- digital hearing aids – which are available through the NHS
- bone anchored implants – suitable for people who are unable to use hearing aids and for some levels of sensorineural hearing loss
- middle ear implants – suitable for some people who are unable to use hearing aids
- cochlear implants – for people who find hearing aids aren’t powerful enough
- lip reading and/or sign language – such as British Sign Language (BSL)
Conductive hearing loss is sometimes temporary and can be treated with medication or minor surgery, if necessary. However, more major surgery may be required to fix the ear drum or hearing bones. If conventional hearing aids don’t work, there are also some implantable devices for this type of hearing loss, such as a bone anchored hearing aids (BAHAs).
How can Graysons help?
If you experience sudden loss of hearing or lose the hearing in your ears within a couple of days, you should see your GP as soon as possible. If there is a delay in diagnosing and/or treating hearing loss, particularly conductive hearing loss, giving rise to a worse outcome for the patient, it may be possible to make a medical negligence claim. Here at Graysons we recognise the effect that a delayed diagnosis and/or treatment of hearing loss can have and we understand the importance of compensation to you as it can greatly improve quality of life for you and your family.
If you would like to speak to one of our medical negligence experts about your hearing loss, please contact us now.
You can read more about making a medical negligence claim on our web pages.
You can also read about how one of our medical negligence specialists won compensation for a child who suffered deafness after negligent treatment.
We can also help if your hearing loss is as a result of exposure to noise at work, when you may be able to claim compensation. You can read more about occupational deafness on our web pages.
Read how Belinda Lancaster helped 2 clients win compensation for work related hearing loss: Vegetable preparation company