In the UK there are around 9 million people who are deaf and hard of hearing, yet each day we continually put one of our most important senses at risk. Loss of hearing can cause people to become isolated and lonely, having a tremendous affect on both their social and working life. In most cases, hearing loss problems develop over a period of time, and it can take years for people to recognise the symptoms, the gradual worsening of the ear becoming an unwanted trait of later life. Unsurprisingly, the most common cause of deafness is ageing, with 6,471,000 deaf and hard of hearing people being aged over 60, yet in our increasingly noisy society, along with the advent of technologies such as personal music players, the number for 16 to 60 years olds is a high 2,474,000. The aim of this guide is to help you understand the causes of hearing loss and how it can suitably be treated, as well as ways to help protect your ears from incurring harm both now, and in later life.

Hearing aids

Hearing aids are one of the most popular treatments for hearing loss. Hearing aids are small, discreet acoustic devices, which are placed inside or around the ear to amplify sounds; some hearing aids are placed inside the ear, while others are fitted around the ear. Hearing aids can be used to treat patients of all ages but most people associate them with older people who have become hard of hearing as a result of ageing. Newer, long-term treatments are often preferred for younger patients but hearing aids can provide significant benefits for many people who suffer from hearing loss.

How do hearing aids work?

Hearing aids are made of component parts, including a microphone and an amplifier; the microphone picks up the sound and the speaker amplifies the sound. Analogue hearing aids work by converting sound into amplified electrical signals, while digital hearing aids work by converting noises and sounds into sequences of binary numbers. Digital hearing aids are usually more expensive than analogue hearing aids because they utilise more sophisticated technology.

Modern hearing aids

In recent years, technology has evolved and hearing aids are now sophisticated, state of the art devices, which make a considerable difference to the lives of thousands of people in the UK. The development of in the ear hearing aids has helped many people to benefit from improved hearing, whilst ensuring that people do not have to wear a visible sign of hearing problems, which can cause embarrassment and self-consciousness. Advances in technology enable people to wear a small, discreet device, rather than a bulky, visible hearing aid and this helps people to feel more confident in social situations.

Some modern hearing aids use state of the art technology to distinguish between speech and general noise and some even have wireless capability, which enables users to connect their hearing aid with mobile phones and computers.