Kent Hearing Transparent

Take our free

Hearing loss occurs when sound signals are unable to reach the brain.  It is defined by the World Health Organization as ‘when a person is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing, meaning hearing thresholds of 20 decibels or better in both ears.’* A disabling hearing loss is defined as when there is a hearing loss of more than 35 decibels in the better hearing ear’* (source:
Hearing loss is a common condition. Approximately 11 million people in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss, making it the second most common disability in the UK, and nearly 1 million of the 11million are either severely or profoundly deaf**.  Hearing loss can affect anyone, at any stage in life, from newly born babies to the very elderly.  It is however most common in older people and in these cases is often referred to as age-related hearing loss. However there are many different possible causes of hearing loss (see ‘What causes hearing loss’ below).

Different types of Hearing Loss

There are 3 types of hearing loss:

1.     Sensorineural hearing loss.  This is caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or by damage to the auditory nerve which sends signals from the inner ear to the brain.  Sensorineural hearing loss usually happens over time and is the most common type of hearing loss, especially amoung older people.  While there is no cure for this type of hearing loss, hearing aids and other technologies and therapies can often significantly improve the quality and clarity of a patient’s hearing.

2.     Conductive hearing loss. This is caused by something stopping sounds from passing through the outer or middle ear, for example a blockage due to a build-up of excess earwax.  If the cause of the blockage can be identified and removed, then the patient’s hearing can often be restored to previous levels. This type of hearing loss is particularly common in children who have recurrent ear infections or glue ear.
3.     Mixed hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time.

What causes Hearing Loss?

Age-related hearing loss is caused by gradual damage and wear and tear to the hair cells in the cochlea, a spiral or shell shaped cavity that is found in the middle ear and turns sounds waves into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve, enabling us to hear. Age related hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss amoung adults.  Exposure to loud noises, either consistently over time or from one very loud sound e.g. a gunshot, is also a common cause of hearing loss in adults and perhaps the most preventable.  Other causes of hearing loss include:
·      Injury or trauma
·      Impacted earwax
·      A foreign object causing a blockage of the ear canal
·      A build-up of fluid in the middle ear due to a cold or virus
·      Ear infections
·      A ruptured eardrum
·      Bone growths or tumours in the middle or outer ear
·      Other medical conditions for example hypertension, Diabetes or Meniere’s disease
Hearing loss can also be hereditary or can be caused by ototoxic medications, for example certain cancer and chemotherapy drugs, which may cause damage to the ear, resulting in both tinnitus and hearing loss.
Hearing test in progress at audiologist's office.

Symptoms of hearing loss

For most people hearing loss is a gradual process, particularly when age-related. Sometimes it is difficult to notice the very early stages of hearing loss, but it is important to seek help and advice as soon as you think you may have any kind of problem with your hearing.  When left untreated, age-related hearing loss is irreversible, so the sooner a diagnosis is made, the better.
A comprehensive hearing assessment by an experienced and fully qualified audiologist can quickly identify the type and severity of hearing loss.  From this, recommendations can be made for treatment and the ongoing management of your hearing.  Often hearing aids will be part of the suggested solution to help improve the quality of your hearing and communication. Treating your hearing loss is key to healthy aging and quality of life.
Some of the other key symptoms of hearing loss in adults are:
·      Voices sounding muffled or people sounding like they are mumbling
·      Difficulty hearing when there is background noise
·      Struggling to follow or keep up with conversations
·      Asking people to repeat themselves
·      Tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound in one or both ears)
·      Needing to turn up the volume on the television, telephone, radio or on personal devices
·      Difficulty hearing people on the phone
·      Your partner, family or friends saying that you are not listening to them
If you experience a sudden hearing loss or deafness, it is important to seek immediate help. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) is a rare form of hearing loss or deafness that happens very quickly and unless it is addresses immediately may become permanent.  Make an emergency appointment to see your GP or audiologist, as early treatment increases the chances of making a full recovery.
Key signs of hearing loss in children include:
·      Not responding when their name is called
·      Delayed speech and language development
·      Talking loudly
·      Unclear or limited speech
·      Poorer than expected performance at school
·      Asking you to repeat what has been said
·      Listening to television or personal devices at high volume
·      Inability to identify where sounds are coming from
If you notice any of these signs and are concerned about your child’s hearing, book a hearing test with a specialist paediatric audiologist.  If not addressed, hearing loss can have a major impact on children’s speech and language development and their relationships and social skills.

How to reduce the risk of hearing loss 

Certain types of hearing loss are preventable and there are a number of things that you can do to look after your ears and your long-term hearing.
·      Wherever possible try to avoid noisy-environments and loud sounds.
·      If you have to be in noisy environments, wear earplugs or earmuffs to help protect your hearing
·      Don’t put anything in your ears!
·      Never use cotton buds to try and remove earwax from your ears.  This will only push the earwax further into the ear canal and make it more impacted.
·      Talk to your doctor about any potential risk to your hearing from medications he or she may prescribe for other conditions that could impact on your hearing, and wherever possible, try and find an alternative treatment option.
·      Book a hearing test at the first sign of any issues with your hearing or hearing loss.

What to do if you think you may have a hearing loss

If you or someone close to you thinks that you may have a hearing loss, it’s important to seek help and advice as soon as possible.  Early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically reduce the impact of hearing loss and enable you to enjoy good hearing and communication for many years to come.
Book an appointment with a fully qualified audiologist for a full hearing test or assessment.  A full and detailed assessment will diagnose the type and severity of any loss you may have. From this, a personalised hearing management plan should be recommended by your audiologist and if needed, onward referrals to ENT surgeons, speech therapists or other relevant professionals can be made.
At Kent Hearing, Dr Priya Carling AuD, RHAD, and her highly experienced, expert team provide some of the most comprehensive and detailed hearing assessments available for both adults and children.  To book an appointment or to find out more please call us on 01732 525912 or email us at  You can also find more information on our hearing assessments at and on our team and their backgrounds and experience at
* Source:
** Source