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3 Hearing loss causes that may surprise you

3 Hearing loss causes that may surprise you

Age is a common cause of hearing loss, as are sustained high noise levels, but other lifestyle habits could be harming your ears more than you realise

World Hearing Day (3 March) is a day that aims to shine a light on hearing loss and encourage better hearing care for all.

By raising awareness of the potential causes of hearing loss, people can make informed choices and prioritise their hearing health, helping them to life a happy and fulfilled life.

Twelve million people are affected by hearing loss across the UK – and this figure is expected to rise to 15.6 million by 2035, according to Healthwatch England.

"Almost a fifth admitted they may have a hearing loss but refuse to wear a hearing aid"

This shows the importance of hearing health being taken seriously and for people to get their ears tested in the same way we go for regular eye tests. Yet many continue to struggle day to day, which can lead to physical, emotional and social implications.

Almost a fifth admitted they may have a hearing loss but refuse to wear a hearing aid and nearly half felt they would be treated differently if they wore a hearing aid.

What are some of the unexpected causes of hearing loss?

Man using drill to work in road, loud environment that causes hearing lossIf noise in your work environment goes above 85dB, your employer should give you hearing protection

With noise able to cause irreversible damage to our ears once levels reach over 80 decibels, it’s important to know where some of these sounds come from.

It’s not just loud music venues or construction sites that are among the worst offenders.

There are some unlikely culprits we may be exposed to every day that can also reach unsafe sound levels, such as travelling by tube, a lawnmower, industrial fire alarms, a motor bike, and in some cases the sound of a baby’s cry.

Prevention is better than cure, so you should always try and protect your ears where possible by wearing ear defenders or ear plugs when surrounded by loud noise—for example when attending live music events.

Noticing a dip in high frequency sounds—for example, the sound of certain birds—could be the start of a hearing loss. As time goes on however, you may start to notice your hearing dip in both high and low frequencies, eventually leading to difficulty following conversations over background noise.

Feraz Ashraf, a Boots Hearingcare audiologist, says: “One of the single best things we can do is to limit our exposure to loud noise, and wear hearing protection if noise is an unavoidable part of our lifestyle.

"If the sound levels in your work environment reach above 85 dB your employer is obligated to provide you with hearing protection.”

"One of the single best things we can do is to limit our exposure to loud noise"

A sudden hearing loss could also be caused by an ear wax build-up or blockage. Our ears produce natural wax helping to defend our ear canal which helps fight against dust, dirt, bacteria, infection, and prevents dry or itchy ears.

But, if your body produces too much of this, it can cause issues such as muffled hearing and Tinnitus in one or both of your ears.

In some cases, certain health conditions of the ear can cause a sudden hearing loss, such as Meniere’s disease, Labyrinthitis and Tinnitus. Meniere’s disease and Labrynthitis are disorders of the inner ear that affect balance and hearing.

Tinnitus is more of a symptom than a disease, as it is usually caused by other health conditions or lifestyle factors, such as sustained exposure to loud noise. It sounds like ringing, whooshing, or buzzing inside your ear, but the sound doesn’t come from the outside world so other people can’t hear it.

While medication is sometimes prescribed for Meniere’s disease and Labrynthitis, in cases of Tinnitus, treatment will focus on symptom relief and management.

This could include using sound therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy, and making lifestyle changes such as reducing stress levels and refraining from smoking which can make Tinnitus worse.

Why you should prioritise your hearing health

Woman getting tested for hearing lossGetting regular hearing tests can help to detect and prevent hearing loss

“We are born with 16,000 inner and outer hair cells which have one job – to transmit vibrations to our brain where they are decoded as sound. Between 30 and 50 percent can become damaged before you would even notice an issue with your hearing, but once the damage is done it can’t be reversed,” said Feraz.

"With some conditions of the ear, you can put yourself at risk of long-term damage if you leave them untreated"

“Even if you are not struggling with your hearing, we advise you to have a hearing test regularly if you are over 50, around every two years is a good idea. This way, you can monitor any changes to your hearing as it will give a baseline for where your hearing is at that moment in time.

“With some conditions of the ear, you can put yourself at risk of long-term damage if you leave them untreated. If you notice a change in your hearing or experience any pain in your ears, then make an appointment to visit your audiologist as soon as possible.”

If you’re over 50, you can book your free hearing test now at bootshearingcare.com. Otherwise, visit your GP who will refer you to see an audiologist.

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