What is hearing loss or impairment?
Around 12 million adults living in the UK are deaf or have a hearing loss. Hearing loss or impairment prevents sounds being completely transmitted through the ear. If the hearing loss is only mild, the person may have trouble hearing faint or distant speech. Someone who has only mild hearing loss may benefit from using a hearing aid to amplify sounds and make life a little easier.
What causes hearing loss or impairment?
There are two types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inside of the inner ear
- Conductive hearing loss, which is where sounds can’t pass through the outer ear to the inner ear due to blockage, ear infection or perforated ear drum
Hearing loss is a common problem that often develops with age; however, it can also be caused by being exposed to extremely loud environments for a long period of time.
Your loved one could also experience sudden hearing loss, which could be down to a viral infection of the inner ear, however the hearing loss will usually develop as time goes on.
It’s very important that if your loved one experiences hearing loss in one or both ears, they seek immediate advice from their GP.
What are the signs of hearing loss?
It’s not always easy to tell if someone is having difficulties with their hearing. Some of the common signs of hearing loss you may notice include:
- Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, this may include being in a large group of people or being in a one to one conversation
- Asking other people to repeat themselves
- Listening to the television or the radio on a very high volume
- Getting increasingly tired or stressed from social interactions – you may notice that they may begin to avoid social interactions because they’re embarrassed or stressed at being unable to hear everything
They may also be experiencing physical symptoms. These can range from ringing, buzzing or very high-pitched noises to earache, itching or fluid coming from the ear.
What to do you if your loved one is showing signs of hearing loss
In the first instance, you should always encourage them to speak to their GP. The hearing loss could be temporary due to a simple case of earwax build up that needs removing or something more permanent that requires further investigation. Either way, the important thing is that they get it checked out as soon as possible so that they can get the help and support that they need.
Living with a hearing impairment
It can be a bit of a learning curve living with a hearing impairment at first, but with help and support your loved one should be able to keep living as independently as they always have done. Getting the right diagnosis and support from healthcare professionals should be their first step in learning to live with a hearing impairment.
Reassure them that there’s nothing embarrassing about telling the people they speak with that they have hearing loss. By telling people they can make small changes such as sitting closer to the person they’re in conversation with, keeping the person’s face and mouth in full view. If the hearing loss is only on one side, they can always try to make sure the person they’re speaking to is on the side of their “good ear”.
It’s important that they try to remain calm and not get overly stressed if they’re struggling to hear as this can make this worse.
If their hearing impairment is permanent and not a temporary condition, then there are products that they may find helpful in day to day life.
One of the most well-known sensory aids to help someone with a hearing impairment is a hearing aid. Hearing aids and amplifiers are a wonderful way to help people with hearing loss to maintain their independence.
There are basic hearing aids available, such as the Medically Approved Hearing Aid, which is designed for all day use and has an adjustable volume setting that can be turned up and down as needed. If they also wear glasses, they may find aids like the Invisible Hearing Amplifier are better suited to their needs as they go in the ear and not around it.
If they’re not feeling ready to try a hearing aid or simply don’t want to, they might want to consider other sensory aids such as a personal amplifier that can connect through their smartphone or tablet, using headphones to help clarify the sound, for example the Bellman & Symfon Maxi Pro Personal Amplifier.
Practical aids around the home
Hearing aids and amplifiers aren’t the only useful things that could help someone living with hearing impairment. Something as simple as the Under Pillow Vibration Alarm Clock could be just what they need if they’re struggling to hear their usual wake-up alarm in the morning. As the name suggest, this handy clock is placed under the pillow and vibrates when it’s time for them to wake up.
Do they love spending hours chatting away on their phone to friends and family? An amplified telephone may make those conversations a little easier for them to hear. For example, the PhotoDECT Big Button Cordless Photophone can be amplified to up to 30dB and the volume on the ringer can also be increased.
If they’re worried about missing a visitor at the door, then the Flashing Doorbell with Vibrating Pager may help to ease their anxieties as the pager will vibrate and the door chime will flash when someone rings the doorbell.
Depending on their needs, there are a variety of aids and equipment available to support them. You can find our full range of sensory aids here.
Help and support
The first place for your loved one to turn if they’re experiencing hearing loss should always be their GP as it might not be just down to them getting older. Their GP will be able to offer them further help and advice about potential next steps.
There are also a variety of charities who aim to support those who are deaf or who have hearing loss, including: