As we age, our hearing can suffer through normal use or excessive noise in the workplace or at home. Because it happens gradually, often we're not aware of how bad it might be. If you're experiencing any of these problems you may have suffered some hearing loss.
Suffering with just one of these issues can mean some loss of hearing. For more information visit the website of Action On Hearing Loss (formerly called Royal National Institute for the Deaf) www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk.
They supply a helpful factsheet, 'Living with someone with gradual hearing loss'. On the website, you can take a short hearing test that may help you identify hearing loss.
Hearing impairment has many causes but the most common are due to the effects of impaired circulation of the blood (vascular) or exposure to noise. The most common cause of all is simply getting older. Less common causes are infections, ototoxic drugs which are damaging to the auditory system and disorders resulting from an unhealthy lifestyle.
There is a significant link between hearing loss and diabetes, with diabetics being more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss as non-diabetics. It is believed this is caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. If you have diabetes, you should have your hearing screened regularly.
Over ten million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss but only about a third of those actually wear hearing aids. This means that more than six million people are ignoring the issue and living with hearing problems that could potentially be improved or even corrected.
Our hearing mechanism, more properly called the auditory system, is an amazing structure and unbelievably complex. The auditory system has three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ears.
The outer ear collects sound and directs it to the middle ear via the eardrum. The middle ear converts sound into mechanical vibrations for transmission to the tiny but amazing structure of the inner ear. The inner ear converts the middle ear sound vibrations into incredibly complex nerve impulse patterns which travel, via the auditory nerve, to the hearing centres of the brain.
Ultimately, it is our brain which hears all the sounds of the world around us, including the most important and complicated of all..the human voice.