Hearing loss in old age | ϲֱ쿪

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Hearing loss

Hearing loss affects around 12 million adults in the UK. Find out more about some of the causes, treatments and support you can get for hearing loss.


What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a reduced ability to hear. It's usually gradual and you may not notice any changes straight away.


What are the signs of hearing loss?

It can be hard to tell if you're losing your hearing, but there are some common signs. If you think you've noticed a change in your hearing, get your hearing checked.

  • You need the TV volume to be louder.
  • You find it difficult to hear when talking on the phone.
  • You can’t always hear people talking, especially in a crowd.
  • You feel like you have to concentrate more on hearing what other people are saying, find it difficult to keep up with conversations or often need people to repeat themselves.

What causes hearing loss in older age?

Most people who experience hearing loss as they get older do so because of wear and tear to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. There are also other factors that can cause hearing loss, such as:

  • regular exposure to loud noise
  • a history of middle ear disease
  • a family history of hearing loss
  • a build-up of ear wax
  • an infection or damage to the ear.

Some people have a condition called tinnitus, which causes you to have persistent noises such as ringing or buzzing. This can also be linked to hearing loss.


How can I be tested for hearing loss?

If you've recently noticed problems with your hearing, the first step is to talk to a healthcare professional and explain how these problems are affecting your day-to-day life. In some areas, you can self-refer to an audiologist – check with your GP surgery.

You can get your hearing tested at some pharmacies and opticians. These are usually free, but you might have to pay for any treatment.

You should always see your GP if your hearing loss is sudden, or if you have any other symptoms along with your hearing loss, such as earache or discharge.

If there's no obvious cause of hearing loss, you might be referred for a hearing assessment with an audiologist or an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist. They'll look into your ears and test your hearing to see how well you can hear different levels of sound.

This assessment will help find the cause of your hearing loss and what treatments would work best. Your hearing assessment will tell you if a hearing aid would help and which type would work best for you.


How can a hearing aid help me?

Hearing aids work by making sounds louder and clearer. They won't restore your hearing back to normal, or cure your hearing loss, but they can make life much easier.

They pick up sound and make it louder with an amplifier. They're fitted with devices, which can tell the difference between foreground noise, such as conversation, and background noise, such as traffic.


How can I get a free NHS hearing aid?

You'll need a GP referral for a hearing assessment with an NHS service. If your hearing assessment shows that a hearing aid will be helpful, then you're eligible for a free hearing aid. Most hearing aids prescribed through the NHS are digital and usually ‘behind the ear’ types.

NHS services are located in hospitals or health centres. In some parts of England, the NHS asks some private companies to carry out hearing tests and give out hearing aids on its behalf.

Most people find NHS aids very helpful, but not all types of aids are available. It can be a good idea to try a free NHS aid and see if it suits you before thinking about buying one.


Are there different types of hearing aid?

Hearing aids differ in shape, size and price. With modern technology, aids are getting smaller and less noticable – some aids fit entirely inside the ear. Smaller aids are also easy to get in your ear, but they can be fiddly to adjust because of the very small controls.

Some aids have other features to improve hearing. For example, some digital aids can clear unwanted background noise. Ask the hearing aid dispenser about any other benefits or features of the aids available.

Your audiologist should give you advice on which model should suit you. Ask if you can trial your hearing aid for a few weeks to make sure it’s comfortable and helpful. Make sure you can confidently put it on, take it off, change the volume level and change the batteries.

When you use a hearing aid for the first time, everyday sounds may seem quite loud. It could take you a couple of months to get used to hearing sounds with your hearing aid. If at any stage the sound is uncomfortable and you can’t wear the hearing aids, it's best to return to your audiologist for advice.


How can assistive devices help my hearing?

'Assistive devices' is a name for special equipment that can be installed in your home to amplify sound and help you hear well. These can be helpful if you don’t want to use a hearing aid. Examples include:

  • a loop system connected to your TV or radio to make sound louder
  • a telephone amplifier
  • adjustments to alarms or doorbells to make them louder, flash or vibrate.

You might be eligible for this equipment on loan for free through your local social services department. Your eligibility will depend on your hearing loss and you'll be assessed by sensory support staff.

Equipment can also be bought privately. Some equipment will have a money-back guarantee so you can return it if it’s not helpful.


What can I do to help with my hearing?

There are some things you can do if you’re experiencing hearing loss that can also protect your hearing.

  • If you're struggling to hear, reducing background noise or speaking in a quieter area might help.
  • It’s okay to ask someone to speak slower and louder or write things down if that’s easiest for you.
  • If you're somewhere with loud noises you might want to protect your ears with ear protectors.
  • You should manage the volume of music or other sounds so that it isn’t too loud.

How can lipreading help my hearing?

If you have hearing loss, lipreading can be a very useful aid to hearing. Going to a local class may improve your lipreading skills, as well as your confidence.

Lipreading is a skill that most people use unconsciously to some degree. We usually focus on another person's face and lips if we are having difficulty hearing what they are saying – often because of intrusive background noise. We do this in an attempt to search for visual clues as to what the speaker is saying.


are there any benefits I can claim if I have hearing loss?

If your hearing loss has an impact on your day-to-day life then you may be able to claim these benefits or concessions:

What extra money are you entitled to?

Do you know what benefits you're entitled to? Our Benefits Calculator can help you, quickly and easily, to find out what you could be claiming.

Want more information?

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Last updated: Sep 27 2023

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