Struggling to hear the television is just one of the common signs that it could be a hearing problem. Other signs could be difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, asking people to repeat themselves, difficulty hearing the telephone or doorbell or regularly feeling tired or stressed, due to having to concentrate closely while listening.   We recommend that your partner has their hearing checked so this can be ruled out. Hearing tests are free, available on the high street from BSHAA members or through your GP.  To find a BSHAA member click here

Looking after your ears is important and wax can build-up in your ear canal and can cause hearing loss. A normal amount of wax is perfectly healthy and helps keep your ears clean. However, some people produce more wax than others and it can build up.

This could be the cause of a hearing loss and if you are worried that you’re not hearing as well as you used to then you should make an appointment to have a free hearing assessment. During the assessment the health of your ears will be checked by the audiologist who will look into your ears using an otoscope.  This is a straight forward procedure and if the problem is just wax this will be easily identified and dealt with accordingly. If not, a hearing test will then be conducted and the results will be shared with you.

Quite the opposite! Hearing aids work by enhancing your existing hearing, so you need to have some level of hearing for them to work.   It is a truth that for most people identified with a hearing loss, it is a permanent and irreversible condition that will not get better only worse. So delaying doesn’t help and, in fact, delay can create a greater problem, but wearing aids will most definitely not make the problem worse.

Delaying help is a bad idea for nearly all health issues. Hearing specialists around the world agree that for hearing loss, the longer the delay, the more difficult it can be for the brain to adapt. The earlier that people get help with their hearing, the higher the chances of success.

Untreated hearing loss not only affects quality of life, it also affects the brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds. When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer effectively channel sounds to the brain, over time, the brain ‘forgets’ the sounds and becomes unable to understand them. Our members regularly see people who wish they’d acted sooner to do something about their hearing.   Some new research suggests there is a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline and the use of hearing aids can reduce this decline.

Exposure to any loud sound for prolonged periods can cause permanent damage. For example, noise levels exceeding 105 dB can damage hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes. MP3 players can exceed 110dB so there is a danger of hearing damage.

Where a hearing loss is found in both ears we always recommend using two hearing aids. Your ears are supposed to work together and only using one will limit your ability to listen and understand, especially in demanding listening environments. For example, you should find it easier to follow conversation when there’s background noise and tell which direction a sound is coming from.

More often than not, this will just be a wrong perception and this can be down to a number of factors, virtually all of which can be overcome. It can take time. When you first get hearing aids, you will gradually need to build up the amount of time you wear them so you can get used to the new sounds and the feeling of them in your ears. Eventually, you should be able to wear them comfortably for most of the day, but this may take up to three months so you’ll need to be patient.

When you get your hearing aids, the audiologist should advise you how to get the best from them. They should also show you how to use and look after them. Your friend should go and see her hearing specialist again.

Today’s hearing aids are can reduce background noise but will not cut out the noise altogether. A world without background noise would be unnatural and sound quite odd. Also; some background noise is useful; like an approaching car!

The fact that no one else has a problem with you diction would imply it is him.   A common symptom of hearing loss is the impression that people aren’t speaking clearly because only part of speech is heard. Most of the English language is dominated by loud, low frequency vowel sounds. Without the softer, higher frequency consonant sounds at the beginning and end of words, they can begin to crash into one another. The listener can interpret this as mumbling.

You will need to tackle this sensitively as most people believe that you can either hear or you are deaf. In reality there are many stages in between, but lots of people still have difficulty confronting yet another symptom that they are getting older.

Sometimes the NHS will provide a small, in the ear hearing system. It doesn’t happen often, but it might worth checking.  Most of our members will be able to assess you for a new range of hearing aids called ‘invisible in the ear’. If your hearing loss and your ear canal is suitable, these clever instruments can literally disappear.  In addition; it is now possible to locate the latest generation of digital circuitry in these hearing aids allowing you to hear as well as you can with amplification.

A consultation with an audiologist who is a BSHAA member will help you understand whether you can get a hearing system like this and how much of a difference it could make to your hearing.  Find a BSHAA audiologist

There definitely is.   New technology is now available which allows certain hearing aids to connect to your mobile phone and some can be described as ‘made for iPhone’.

What this means is that whilst wearing these hearing aids, you can connect wirelessly directly to the device and listen to music or whatever other type of streamed media you happen to be accessing. The sound quality has been reported to be good by people who own these hearing aids. Also the apps that you can download onto your mobile device mean that you are in total control of the way it performs.

The even better news is that this level of sophistication is also available now for a wide range of android devices.   Your best option is to talk to a Find a BSHAA audiologist.

First, your audiologist is the best person to advise you what is available and appropriate locally. However; if you would rather seek more independent advice, there are two charitable organisations that you can access directly. These are Action on Hearing Loss and Hearing Link. Both of these have helplines where you can talk freely about any problems that you might be having.

Second, both of these groups are resourced locally and you may be delighted to find that they have a group in your area who can help with both emotional and practical support. Give them a call, everyone who has was pleased that they did.

First, your audiologist is the best person to advise you what is available and appropriate locally. However; if you would rather seek more independent advice, there are two charitable organisations that you can access directly. These are Action on Hearing Loss and Hearing Link. Both of these have helplines where you can talk freely about any problems that you might be having.

Second, both of these groups are resourced locally and you may be delighted to find that they have a group in your area who can help with both emotional and practical support. Give them a call, everyone who has was pleased that they did.

Audiology Terminology

Acute otitis media

Acute otitis media, or glue ear, is a short-term ear infection that often comes on suddenly. Symptoms are a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which can get infected.


Age Related Hearing Loss

Hearing loss that is caused by advancing years rather than by illness, medication, exposure to loud noise or trauma.  About 60% of those with hearing loss in the UK are over retirement age.


Analogue hearing aids

Analogue hearing aids have a microphone that picks up sound and converts the sound into small electrical signals. These electrical signals are then amplified (made louder) and fed into an earphone on the hearing aid so you can hear them. They have largely been replaced by digital hearing aids.



An audiogram is a chart that represents a person’s hearing ability, determined by a hearing test. Audiologists use audiograms to help judge whether a person has a hearing loss and what type of help they need.



An audiologist specialises in identifying and assessing hearing and balance problems. They recommend and provide appropriate support, products and treatments to help alleviate the effects of hearing loss.  Audiologists can work both privately and for the NHS.  Audiologists in the private sector who are members of BSHAA provide the additional assurance of the Society’s Customer Care Scheme


Auditory nerve

The auditory nerve (also known as the cochlear or acoustic nerve) carries (sound) signals from the cochlea to the brain.


Auditory processing disorder

A disorder that affects the processing of auditory information within the brain. Typically the patient has normal functions of the outer, middle and inner ear but are unable to process sounds in the same way that others do. therefore having difficulties recognising and interpreting sounds, especially speech.


Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

BTE aids have a mould that fits inside the ear, while the rest of the aid sits behind the ear. Some have twin microphones, to switch between all-round sound and a more directional setting that can provide focused directional sound in noisy places.


Bone conduction hearing aids

Bone conduction hearing aids deliver sound through the skull via vibrations.


Brain stem implants

Brain stem implants are inserted surgically and can improve hearing in patients with neural hearing loss, which can be caused by cancer of the auditory (hearing) nerve or an auditory nerve that failed to develop properly. Implants convert sound into electrical impulses that stimulate the brain directly, bypassing the auditory nerve. 



A condition of the middle ear that generally starts with a hole in the ear drum; usually in the upper part of the drum. This can become infected and the ear drum sheds dead skin which mixes with other debris in the ear to form a mass – called a cholesteatoma. If left untreated this can grow causing damage and may lead to hearing loss, tinnitus and sometimes balance problems. Rarely, very severe cases can cause meningitis or brain infections.


Chronic otitis media

Chronic otitis media is a long lasting or recurring infection in the middle ear.  Symptoms are a build-up of fluid in the middle ear.



The cochlea is a fluid filled chamber in the inner ear which converts sound to electrical impulses in the auditory nerve.   Sound waves enter the cochlea from the middle ear causing the fluid to vibrate.  Tiny sensory hair cells to pick up this movement and trigger the signal in the nerve which passes the signal to the brain to be interpreted as sound.


Cochlear implant

A cochlear implant consists of a microphone and a transmitter outside the head, which send signals to a receiver under the skin which is connected to electrodes implanted in the cochlea. Sound causes tiny electric currents which stimulate the auditory nerve and in turn the impulses are passed to the brain to be interpreted as sound.


Completely-in-the-ear-canal (CIC) hearing aids. Also IIC (invisible)

CIC’s are even smaller than ITE aids, so are an excellent solution for people who need a less visible hearing aid. 



Hearing aids amplify weak sounds to a level that the user can hear. They also ensure that strong sounds are not amplified too much to avoid discomfort. Compression is the system that manages this, and enables a user to listen comfortably to quiet and loud sounds in quick succession without having to manually change settings.


Conductive deafness

Conductive deafness is when sound cannot pass freely through the outer or middle ear. This is usually caused by a blockage in the outer or middle ear from an infection or a build up of wax. If the cause is wax this can be removed by an audiologist.  BSHAA’s Find an Audiologist will help you identify an dispenser near you who offers wax removal.


Digital hearing aid

Digital hearing aids take signals from the microphone and convert this into a code. The code is manipulated by a tiny computer in the hearing aid, so enabling digital hearing aids to be set to an individual’s hearing needs.


Directional microphones

Some hearing aids have multiple microphones to help detect the direction of a sound source. This helps the hearing aid to focus more on sounds coming from the front of the person, rather than the side or behind. The microphones make it easier to follow conversations in noisy places.


Hair cell

Hair cells are sensory cells in the cochlea that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that then travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. Loss of or damage to hair cells results in permanent hearing loss.


Hearing loss

We use the term ‘hearing loss’ in a general way to cover any impairment in hearing, from mild hearing loss (unable to hear sounds below 25dB) to profound deafness (unable to hear sounds below 95dB).



Hyperacusis is abnormal discomfort caused by sounds that are tolerable to listeners with ordinary hearing. Many people who experience hyperacusis will not have hearing loss, but it is commonly linked with other hearing problems such as tinnitus or Meniérès Disease.


In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids

ITE aids are small enough to fit inside the ear, although not as small as CIC aids. Working parts are either in a small compartment clipped to the earmould or inside the moulded part itself. 


Loop system

Also known as an induction loop, a loop system is an assistive listening device that can be used with some hearing aids in places where it might be difficult to hear.  Loop systems are commonly available in public places such as banks, post offices and theatres.  Hearing aid users need to switch to the T or telecoil setting to use a loop system.


Meniérè’s disease

Meniérè’s disease is a rare condition that affects the inner ear. It can cause vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear. Symptoms usually appear without warning and often last for two to three hours.


Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is when we are exposed to sounds that are too loud, or loud sounds that last a long time, sensitive structures in our ear (hair cells) can be damaged. This causes noise-induced hearing loss. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, so this hearing loss cannot be reversed.


Noise suppression

A system within hearing aids that works to reduce some kinds of background noise automatically so that listening is more comfortable.


Open ear fitting

Conventional ear moulds are not required for open ear fitting. Instead, the hearing aid sits behind the ear and a small tube carries the sound into the ear and is held in place by a small tip and/or sprung plastic projection. These small earpieces can give a more natural sound and do not feel as ‘full’ in the ear as conventional ear moulds.


Otitis media

An infection or inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.



A condition which results in the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear. It can cause conductive hearing loss. The excess bone prevents the ossicles in the middle ear from moving freely. Hearing loss of this type causes sounds to become quieter rather becoming distorted.


Ototoxic drugs

Drugs that may be damaging to the ear or hearing are known as ototoxic. Some ototoxic drugs may make tinnitus and/or hearing temporarily worse and some can cause permanent damage.


Perforated eardrums

A hole or tear in the eardrum. It will usually heal by itself, but it can sometimes require surgery called myringoplasty, where a tissue graft is used to seal up the hole.



Most people find their hearing gets worse as they get older – this is called age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. If you have noise-induced hearing loss and you develop presbycusis too, the combination will mean that your hearing loss is worse than presbycusis alone.


Real ear measurement

Real ear measurement is a method used by an audiologist to make sure that hearing aids are set up the right way for an individual by measuring the sound levels in ear canals.


Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids

RITE, or loudspeaker-in-the-ear aids are smaller than BTE aids, because some part of the device sits inside the ear. They are not as small as ITE or CIC aids. Like open ear BTEs, they can be easier to put in than an ear mould. There are different RITE hearing aids for different levels of hearing loss.



A telecoil is a small coil of wire within a hearing aid that enables the hearing aid user to make use of a loop system.



Tinnitus is experienced as noise in the ears or heard. The sound produced by tinnitus is normally described as ringing, whistling or buzzing.


Tinnitus (Pulsatile)

Pulsatile tinnitus is normally described as rhythmic noise that beats in time with your pulse. This type of tinnitus usually has a specific cause, such as high blood pressure or glue ear.

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