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Deafness in later life - don't suffer in silence

Deafness Research UK describes the symptoms of age related hearing loss, the importance of seeking help and what practical steps you can take to preserve your own hearing.

Hearing loss affects over nine million people in the UK, and while hearing problems can develop at any age, the gradual deterioration of the ear as we age means that for most of us, the onset of deafness will become an unwelcome feature of our later lives.

Known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss affects more than the people over 60, making it the second most common disability in older people behind mobility problems.

For many it can cause frustration, loneliness and depression.

What if I suspect I am affected?

Hearing loss can be tackled successfully if it is recognised and treated early enough, so tell your GP if you suspect a problem. Your GP can check for wax build up, do some basic tests and refer you to an audiologist.

Doing nothing risks losing hearing that could have been saved by timely intervention. Studies have shown that the quicker you get a hearing aid once hearing loss is confirmed, the greater the benefit you are likely to gain from it.

What are the early signs of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can occur very gradually, and you may not be aware of it until it has become severe.

Family and friends are usually the first to notice, so take heed if they comment on the need to raise their voice or repeat things when speaking to you.

Another indicator is when you find it difficult to follow a conversation when in a group of people, particularly where there is background noise.

Improved hearing aids

Hearing aids have improved beyond all recognition in recent years and are transforming the lives of thousands of people with hearing problems. The new versions are small, discreet and digital.

Modern digital aids can be matched to specific hearing loss and many types are available for behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE), in the canal (ITC) and completely in the canal (CIC).

Tactics for better hearing

If you are waiting for diagnosis and treatment, here are some tactics for better hearing.

Lip-reading can be a real help. Watch the lips of the person you are talking to, as this can help you understand what is being said. 

The speaker’s body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of their voice and speed of talking give clues to their topic, attitude, mood and feelings.

Your own body language is also important in conversation, so by frowning, looking puzzled, leaning forwards, you are telling the speaker that you are not hearing what is being said.

Don’t be afraid to make clear your problem and ask questions if you have not heard clearly.

Advances in age-related hearing loss research

Deafness Research UK is supporting the latest research into hearing loss to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people.

One example is studying the mechanisms underlying pitch perception problems in the hearing impaired. This will result in the improved design of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Another is the development of clinically applicable simple, quick and easy to use hearing tests

Research is also taking place into the genes that may cause age-related hearing loss. Some people inherit a greater risk of hearing loss and discovering the genetics behind it may lead to ways to delay or prevent the process.

Further Information

Further details can be obtained by contacting the Deafness Research UK information service on Freephone 0808 808 2222, or Textphone: 020 7915 1412.

Or you can email info@deafnessresearch.org.uk.

About Deafness Research UK

Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.

It supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment.

Deafness Research UK is dependent on voluntary donations, gifts and personal legacies. You can donate online or call 0207 7833 1733 for further information on how to support the charity. 

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