Hearing is one of the most important senses we have, but as we get older it becomes increasingly likely that we’ll experience some kind of hearing loss.
According to statistics from the charity Action on Hearing Loss, some 40 per cent of people over 50 and 70 per cent of those over 70 experience problems with their hearing, and it is estimated that by 2031 there will be more than 14.5 million people in the UK with hearing loss.
There are a number of reasons your hearing can become less acute, but the most common by far is the one you can’t do much about: ageing! As you get older, the tiny hairs in your ear that help you to hear can become damaged or die off, and as they do not regrow, any loss of hearing is permanent. Although this usually starts to happen in our 50s, it can occur much earlier in some people.
As this usually occurs gradually over a long period of time, it often goes undetected for several years – however, there are a few symptoms you can look out for, such as having difficulty following conversations in a noisy environment, needing to turn up the volume on the TV louder than usual, or having trouble hearing on the telephone. If you begin to notice any of these, book a free hearing test with a provider like Amplifon as soon as possible.
According to Action on Hearing Loss, at least four million people in the UK would benefit from using hearing aids, but don’t currently use them.
This may be because they are unaware of their hearing loss, but could also be due to the perceived stigma of wearing a hearing aid – however, your health should always be your first priority and some types of hearing aids are almost invisible. If you’re worried about looking old before your time, you might be surprised at how discreet modern devices are!
There are other lifestyle-related factors that can accelerate hearing impairment, such as working in a noisy environment or regularly going to loud nightclubs or concerts.
Smoking is also a major factor – smokers are 70 per cent more likely to experience hearing loss than non-smokers, so there’s another good reason to kick the habit! If your workplace is noisy, your employer should provide you with noise-cancelling earphones, and many nightclubs offer earplugs to protect your hearing.
There are a few steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of hearing loss. If you listen to music on a portable player, try to get the noise-cancelling kind of headphones – these block out high- and low-frequency sounds, allowing you to listen to your music at a lower volume.
Additionally, you should never use cotton swabs to clean your ears – these can cause serious damage, and you should visit your doctor for safe earwax removal.
Finally, remember it’s not just you that may suffer hearing loss – be aware that friends and family members may also experience it, but may be too embarrassed to talk about it. Be supportive and point them in the right direction – it’s never too late to take steps to improve your hearing!