Statements like “I don’t need a hearing aid” or “I can hear what I need to hear” will be familiar to many people with elderly friends. Younger people often don’t know how to react when the person they’re talking to smiles instead of answering a question or starts talking about something that has nothing to do with the current conversation. This can be awkward, especially when those who suffer from hearing loss refuse to do anything about it.
Many people who are in the initial stages of hearing loss find it hard to accept that their hearing has deteriorated. The most common cause of hearing loss is age-related damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear. The first signs can often be detected between 40 and 50 years of age. Sometimes others are blamed for mumbling or speaking too quietly. It is important to discuss this topic with the person affected. Being hard of hearing can lead to social isolation and accelerated deterioration in cognitive functions. The sooner a hearing aid is used, the better.
It’s not just a question of age
Hardness of hearing is not always due to age and can also be caused by external factors such as chronic noise damage, infections or tumours. In some cases the condition is congenital and is caused by viral infections or excessive alcohol consumption by the sufferer's mother during pregnancy. Some nerves can also be malformed as the body develops.
Help is availableIn most cases the problem can be solved with a hearing aid or implant. Some sufferers are put off by the thought of having a large unsightly hearing aid, but there are many models nowadays which sit discreetly in the ear canal and are practically invisible from the outside. Hearing aids are fine-tuned by an acoustician. In more serious cases sufferers can undergo a minor operation to have an implant inserted. Implants convert noise into electrical impulses which stimulate the auditory nerve in the inner ear. As with a hearing aid, the audio processor with its transmitter coil is tucked behind the ear.