HOW SHARP IS YOUR HEAR­ING? EX­PERT AD­VICE ON HEAR­ING LOSS

Woman & Home - - CONTENT -

WE EX­PECT OUR EYES TO CHANGE

WITH AGE BUT HEAR­ING IS OF­TEN IG­NORED. VIC­TO­RIA LAM­BERT ASKS PRO­FES­SOR CHRIS RAINE, A CON­SUL­TANT ENT SUR­GEON AT BRAD­FORD ROYAL IN­FIR­MARY, FOR AD­VICE

WHETHER IT’S FOR LIS­TEN­ING TO ADELE, TRAF­FIC NOISE, BIRDSONG – OR JUST A FRIEND’S VOICE,

WE’D ALL BE LOST WITH­OUT

OUR HEAR­ING. YET, AS WE AGE, IT CAN BE HARDER TO CATCH SOUNDS. AND ONCE WE REACH MIDLIFE, HEAR­ING PROB­LEMS

ARE IN­CREAS­INGLY LIKELY; 40% OF OVER FIFTIES HAVE SOME LEVEL OF PRESBYCUSIS, OR AGE-RE­LATED HEAR­ING LOSS.

YET MOST OF US SHY AWAY FROM

HEAR­ING TESTS. DEAF­NESS HAS LONG CAR­RIED A STIGMA THANKS TO FEARS OF BE­ING

TREATED DIF­FER­ENTLY. OLD-STYLE HEAR­ING AIDS – LARGE AND UN­SIGHTLY – HAVE A

LOT TO AN­SWER FOR, BUT SO DO COM­EDY PRO­GRAMMES, WHICH EQUATE DEAF­NESS WITH BE­ING GRUMPY OR LESS IN­TEL­LI­GENT.

MEAN­WHILE, THERE ARE PLENTY OF NEW WAYS TO PRO­TECT OUR HEAR­ING, AND IF NEC­ES­SARY, SUP­PORT OR EN­HANCE IT,

FROM COCHLEAR IM­PLANTS TO TINY DIG­I­TAL HEAR­ING AIDS. ON THE HORI­ZON, RE­SEARCH IS BE­ING CON­DUCTED TO DIS­COVER HOW TO RE­GROW THE HAIRS IN THE MID­DLE EAR WHERE DAM­AGE TO HEAR­ING OC­CURS.

WHAT CAUSES HEAR­ING LOSS?

High fre­quen­cies are typ­i­cally af­fected first – think of “cock­tail party deaf­ness” when you strug­gle to fol­low con­ver­sa­tions where there’s back­ground noise. MOST COM­MONLY LOSS OF HEAR­ING IS DUE TO AGE-RE­LATED DAM­AGE AF­FECT­ING THE TINY IN­NER EAR HAIR CELLS WITHIN PART OF THE EAR CALLED THE COCHLEA, OR THE HEAR­ING NERVE (OR BOTH), AND IS CALLED SENSORINEURAL HEAR­ING LOSS. LESS COM­MON IN­FEC­TIONS SUCH AS MEASLES, MUMPS, RUBELLA AND MENIN­GI­TIS CAN BE TO BLAME, OR A TRAU­MATIC EVENT SUCH AS A CAR AC­CI­DENT OR A BLOW TO THE HEAD.

CER­TAIN DRUGS SUCH AS TYPES OF CHEMO­THER­APY AND AN­TIBI­OTICS CALLED AMINOGLYCOSIDES ARE ALSO KNOWN TO DAM­AGE THE HAIR CELLS. RE­SEARCHERS AT WASH­ING­TON STATE UNIVER­SITY IN THE US HAVE DE­VEL­OPED A DRUG CALLED DIHEXA, WHICH MAY BE ABLE TO PRE­VENT THE HAIR CELL LOSS CAUSED BY AMINOGLYCOSIDE TREAT­MENT AND ALL TOXIC MED­I­CA­TIONS.

WHAT ABOUT

EAR BLOCK­AGES?

An­other type of hear­ing loss is called con­duc­tive – and it can be due to a block­age in the outer or mid­dle ear, such as a build-up of ex­cess ear wax or fluid from an ear in­fec­tion. OTHER COM­MON CAUSES ARE RUP­TURED EARDRUMS OR CHRONIC IN­FEC­TIONS. SE­VERE PROB­LEMS MAY BE DUE TO OTOSCLEROSIS – AB­NOR­MAL GROWTH OF BONE IN THE MID­DLE EAR, WHICH STOPS SOUND BE­ING TRANS­MIT­TED INTO

THE IN­NER EAR. IN 2015, RE­SEARCHERS AT UNIVER­SITY COL­LEGE LON­DON (UCL) FOUND MU­TA­TIONS IN A GENE CALLED SERPINF1 THAT MAY CAUSE OTOSCLEROSIS, OPEN­ING UP THE POS­SI­BIL­ITY OF NEW TREAT­MENTS.

WHEN EARWAX IS A PROB­LEM

A plug of hard wax can re­sult in a no­tice­able hear­ing loss. WHILE SOME PEO­PLE SIM­PLY PRO­DUCE MORE WAX THAN OTH­ERS, AS WE AGE WAX BE­COMES DRIER AND IS MORE LIKELY TO COM­PACT. TRY SODIUM BICARBONATE EAR DROPS FROM THE CHEMIST, OR A FEW >>

DROPS OF ROOM TEM­PER­A­TURE OLIVE OIL. IF WAX RE­MAINS AF­TER THIS SOME GP SURG­ERIES OF­FER EAR SYRINGING US­ING MODERN PULSED WATER JETS BUT YOU USU­ALLY HAVE TO SOFTEN THE WAX BY US­ING DROPS FOR UP TO THREE WEEKS BE­FORE­HAND.

CAN LOUD MU­SIC RE­ALLY HURT MY EARS?

Yes, over­ex­po­sure to loud noise (whether you are in a band or an au­di­ence) is known to dam­age hear­ing. EN­COUR­AGE YOUNG PEO­PLE TO WEAR EAR DE­FEND­ERS IF THEY GO TO FES­TI­VALS AND GIGS. YOU

MAY AL­READY HAVE SUF­FERED TEM­PO­RARY HEAR­ING LOSS AF­TER GO­ING TO A CON­CERT.

CAN I USE MO­BILE IF I HAVE A HEAR­ING AID?

Mo­bile phones gen­er­ate ra­dio fre­quency in­ter­fer­ence that may be picked up by a hear­ing aid (heard as a buzzing sound). YOU MAY NEED TO TRY A PHONE THAT’S COM­PAT­I­BLE WITH AN AID, OR WHICH AM­PLI­FIES THE CALLS (SO A HEAR­ING AID CAN BE TURNED OFF), SUCH AS A T533 DORO LIBERTO 825 SMART­PHONE (£259.99).

COULD A COCHLEAR IM­PLANT HELP?

If you strug­gle to hear a lawn­mower, your hear­ing loss is above 90 deci­bels, and cochlear im­plants are suit­able. these are sur­gi­cally in­serted hear­ing aids con­sist­ing of an ex­ter­nal pro­ces­sor (which con­verts sound into an elec­tri­cal sig­nal) and an in­ter­nal re­ceiver, which is sur­gi­cally im­planted into the bone be­hind the ear, with elec­trodes in­serted into the cochlea. these im­plants by­pass the dam­aged in­ner ear hair cells, di­rectly stim­u­lat­ing the hear­ing nerve.

Each im­plant costs about £18,000, with a 90-minute op­er­a­tion on the nhs. un­for­tu­nately, fewer than 5% of those who would be suit­able are re­ferred for as­sess­ment for an im­plant. if this might be for you, ask for a re­fer­ral to your lo­cal au­di­ol­ogy de­part­ment.

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