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Lost in festive conversation? You may be suffering from hearing loss.

Fingers crossed, your Christmas delivered on its promise as the most wonderful time of the year, but that’s not always the case. If your festive family get together – with the traditional dinner table chat, Christmas movies and fun family games – left a ringing in your ears, it may be time to contact a hearing loss specialist.

Hearing loss is common, particularly as you get older – and it is often when we are with the people that we know and love the best that we notice something isn’t quite as it should be – either with your nearest and dearest, or with your own hearing.

How to spot signs of hearing loss in others

When you consider that more than 40% of over fifties have hearing loss, rising to 70% in the over seventies, [RNID] the chance that you were at a festive get-together with someone affected by hearing loss is pretty high. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that you should have treated granny or Uncle Jim to a hearing assessment for Christmas:

  • The TV volume was far too high for most people in the room
  • You’re frequently asked to repeat yourself
  • Your loved one gives inappropriate answers to questions
  • Your relative removes themselves from group situations and conversations

How to spot signs of hearing loss in yourself

If you found yourself struggling to engage in conversation and join in with group activities over the festive period, it may be time to get your hearing checked.

The nature of group conversation – and what better example than Christmas – is often a useful measure of how good your hearing actually is. Increased background noise, unfamiliar voices, more than one person talking at any given time, not to mention the other visual stimulation at this time of year, make it more difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear, communicate and ultimately, participate.

If you noticed any of these signs of hearing loss over the Christmas period, it’s time to get checked out:

  • Struggling to hear speech, especially in background noise
  • Having to concentrate especially hard on the person who is speaking
  • Everything is as loud as you would expect but speech isn’t very clear
  • You couldn’t hear speech at the dinner table
  • It was difficult to have a conversation whilst the TV/music was on
  • Communicating with people was more stressful than usual

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can have several causes, but it is usually defined as one of three different types: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Each description gives us an idea of where in the auditory pathway the problem occurs:

Sensorineural hearing loss:

derived from the Latin terms sensori and neural. The sensory aspect of hearing loss is located in the cochlea. It occurs when the tiny hair cells that detect sound in the ear are injured, diseased, do not work correctly, or have died. The neural aspect occurs when there is a problem with the central auditory nervous system. It can be difficult to distinguish whether the loss is entirely sensory, neural or a combination of both, so we refer to these types of losses as sensorineural. This type of hearing loss can be caused by lots of things but most commonly ageing (age-related hearing loss is called presbyacusis), childhood infections such as measles or mumps, Meniere’s disease or regular exposure to loud noise. Most of the time, this kind of hearing loss cannot be reversed.

Conductive hearing loss:

this occurs when there is a blockage or a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear. For example, the ossicles may not be conducting sound properly or the eardrum may not be vibrating in response to sound. Again, this can be caused by a range of issues including: a blocked ear canal (due to wax or a foreign body), damage to the ossicles, fluid build-up behind the eardrum (known as effusion) or a perforated eardrum. Sometimes this kind of hearing loss can be reversed, but that depends on the cause.

Mixed hearing loss:

it is possible to suffer from a combination of the two types of hearing loss mentioned above. This means that not only is sound being blocked from reaching the cochlea, but there is also damage to the hair cells or other structures in the auditory pathway.

Although sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, it is almost impossible to know which kind you are experiencing. That’s when engaging the services of a hearing loss professional is essential.  A qualified audiologist or registered hearing aid dispenser will offer a hearing solution that will enable you to hear, communicate and participate once again, even in the most challenging of hearing environments like the festive season.

You’re not alone: some alarming statistics on hearing loss in the UK

  • In the UK it is thought that over 11 million adults have hearing loss, that’s one person in five!
  • Only half of people suffering with hearing loss seek help
  • It is believed that 1.2 million people in the UK have a hearing loss severe enough to stop them hearing nearly all conversation
  • Ten years from now, there will be over 14 million people in the UK with hearing loss.
Source: RNID

Get the hearing loss help you need

Whether you’re worried about hearing loss in yourself or your loved ones, it’s wise to book an appointment with an audiologist. If you live in Wakefield, ask your GP to refer you to Novus Health. Our experienced adult hearing loss specialists will identify whether or not you or your relative has hearing loss and what type it is. They will then tailor a bespoke hearing solution that works for you, getting you back to hearing the world and doing the things you love.

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