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Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can affect you at any age and about 16 per cent of adults in the UK have some degree of hearing loss, although that rises to about 50 per cent in people over the age of 75.

Sounds enter the ear canal and pass along to the eardrum, which causes vibrations of the eardrum, and then those vibrations move along the little bones, ossicles, which connect the drum to the inner ear. The inner ear, known as cochlea, translates these vibrations into electrical signals which are sent to the brain by the acoustic nerve.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be caused by problems occurring in the separate parts of the ear. They are as follows:

Conductive hearing loss
This refers to problems when sounds are not turned into vibrations either by the ear drum or the little bones in the middle ear. There are a number of causes of conductive hearing loss which include a build up of wax, which causes a blockage, repeated infections, a collection of fluid, injury or, if the little bones become fixed – otosclerosis.

Sensorineural hearing loss
This relates to problems within the inner ear or with the auditory nerve that transmits to the brain. The most common cause is the ageing process, and usually affects both ears at the same time, and can also be associated with tinnitus.

This type of deafness can also be caused by infections, trauma, inherited conditions and can even be the result of certain medications. Much more rarely, it can be the result of a tumour which is pressing on the auditory nerve.

What are the associated problems?

With conductive hearing loss, the patient usually does not hear sounds at all, or in a very limited way, but with sensorineural hearing loss, they may be able to hear the sounds of a conversation, for example, but not be able to distinguish what is being said. Many patients complain of feeling isolated and frustrated.

What are your treatment options?

Conductive hearing loss
This can usually be treated effectively and hearing can be corrected and improved.

Sensorineural hearing loss
This is more difficult to treat – some problems can be treated, but many are deemed irreversible. However, the condition can be improved with the use of hearing aids.

This refers to the condition whereby the small bones in the ear, known as the ossicles, become fixed and reduce the vibrations that travel into the inner ear. It can also be associated with tinnitus and feelings of dizziness. Mr Fayad will first rule out other diseases or health problems that cause the same symptoms, and will then carry out thorough hearing tests to determine the degree of hearing loss.

Hearing aids may help alleviate the problem, but there is also a surgical option. This will not reverse the condition, but will help. It’s called a stapedotomy operation and, if just one ear is affected, it will help direct sound better.  However, if both ears are affected, the operation is usually performed on the poorer ear, and the patient may still need a hearing aid in the other ear.

The procedure lasts about an hour and is usually performed under local anaesthetic. An incision is made above the ear opening or inside the ear canal, and a plastic or metal prosthesis is put in the ear to improve how sound is conducted into the inner ear.
There is an 80 per cent success rate in this procedure – in that you will get an improvement of hearing as far as your inner ear is capable. Hearing can take up to three months to return to normal.

Mr Fayad will thoroughly explain the complications of this procedure during the consultation, but they include: further impairment to the patient’s hearing; dizziness (although this should only last for a short while); some impact on taste as the taste nerve runs very close to the ear drum (but this should just be temporary) or the onset or worsening of tinnitus.

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