Losing your hearing?

Hearing loss is more common than you may think. In the UK, around one person in six is deaf or hard of hearing. There are several ways to tell that your hearing is going.

The most common cause of hearing loss is ageing. Nearly 42% of those over the age of 50 and 70% of those over the age of 70 have some form of hearing loss. According to the charity Action on Hearing Loss, age-related hearing loss normally begins at around 50. But it’s not just older people who are affected.

Being exposed to too much loud noise is an important cause of hearing loss. It is thought that loud noise is behind the increasing numbers of young people who are losing their hearing. The popularity of iPods and other personal players, and pubs and clubs that play very loud music, all contribute.

These dangers are just as serious at an open-air music festival as they are in an indoor nightclub. Action on Hearing Loss recommends wearing reusable earplugs for music, standing away from the speakers and taking regular breaks from the loudest areas.

What hearing loss feels like

Most of us take our hearing for granted, so it’s easy not to notice at first when it goes.

It’s usually a gradual process. Background noises start to sound a little blurry, you can’t make out quiet voices and you don’t hear announcements at airports and train stations.

Next, you have difficulties hearing what people are saying if there’s background chatter, especially if it’s a child speaking or someone who's quietly spoken.

Then you find that in a busy setting you have to concentrate really hard on what the person you’re talking to is saying and you start to pay more attention to people’s lip movements and expressions to read what you can’t hear.

Can you hear properly?

Try answering these eight questions to gauge whether you could be losing your hearing.

  • Do other people seem to mumble rather than speak clearly to you?
  • Do people often have to repeat things for you before you understand what they say?
  • Do you have difficulty understanding what is being said in noisy places, such as pubs or restaurants, even though other people manage to have conversations?
  • When you are talking to people in a group, is it hard to keep up with the conversation?
  • Do other people think your television or music is too loud but you can't hear it properly if they turn it down?
  • Do you often have difficulty hearing on the telephone?
  • Have other people told you that you don’t hear well?
  • Do you find it tiring to listen to conversations because you have to concentrate hard?

If you answered yes to most of these questions you could be losing your hearing.

The next step is for you to have a hearing test. Read more about getting your hearing tested.

Find out about the hearing impairment and deaf support services in your local area (both NHS and charitable).

Read more about hearing impairment.

Page last reviewed: 19/01/2015

Next review due: 19/01/2018


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