Body & Fitness

Hearing loss

It can take time to realise you’re losing your hearing, but the sooner you do something about it, the better.

Hearing loss affects nearly one in five Kiwis – and when it happens in adulthood, many of us take our time doing something about it.We put up with not being able to hear properly because we figure it is just part of getting old, and while age is one of the most common causes of deafness, there could be other reasons. You should always get hearing loss checked out. There may be a treatment for the cause of your problems and the sooner you can be treated, the better.

When you have hearing loss, your brain can become unaccustomed to receiving and processing sounds. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to get used to hearing again, and the less effective hearing aids may be when you finally get them. And why put up with not being able to hear properly, when a hearing aid may make a world of difference?

Warning signs

You may have hearing loss if:

• Others seem to mumble all the time.

• You constantly ask people to repeat what they said because you didn’t catch it the first time.

• You have difficulty following conversations in noisy places, like bars or cafés, even though the people around you don’t seem to have a problem understanding what is said.

• You find it hard to keep up with conversations between a group of people.

• Listening to conversations leaves you drained because you have to concentrate so hard.

• Others are always turning down the TV or music because they think it is too loud, but you can’t hear it clearly when the volume is lowered.

Why can’t you hear properly?

The two most common causes of hearing loss are:

• Noise Noise-induced hearing loss affects people of all ages and tends to develop over many years. Prolonged exposure to loud noise, including machinery and music, causes wear and tear on the nerve cells that send sound signals to the brain. Those signals aren’t transferred as efficiently so you can’t hear as well.

• Ageing Changes in the nerves of the inner ear that occur as you get older can lead to hearing loss. It can be mild or severe, and is always permanent.

Other possible reasons for not being able to hear properly include:

• A build-up of earwax. Always see your doctor to get wax properly removed – sticking anything in your ear yourself can be dangerous.

• Certain medicines, such as some kinds of antibiotics, can damage the ear.

• An injury to the ear or head.

• An ear infection.

• Fluid in the middle ear after a cold or as a result of travelling on a plane.

• A non-cancerous tumour on the hearing nerve.

• Benign growths in the ear canal, including exostoses – bone growths that can develop if the ear canal is repeatedly exposed to cold water or air.

• Ménière’s disease. A disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance.

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