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The number of Britons with hearing loss is set to rise from 12 million today, to 14.2 million by the year 2035. If people tell you your TV is turned up too loud, or if you struggle to pay attention to conversations in public places, you could be experiencing the early symptoms of hearing loss. Here are the signs to watch out for – and how to test your hearing.
You might assume you would be the first to notice a change in your quality of hearing, but this isn’t always the case.
Franki Oliver, Audiology Adviser at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), explains how people might not notice their hearing loss at first.
Franki said: “Unfortunately, research shows people take 10 years on average to take action on their hearing loss: they may not notice the signs, they may not know what to do about it or they may be afraid to admit their hearing isn’t what it used to be.
“Hearing loss can happen gradually, so you may not notice it at first.
“You may find it more difficult to hear quiet sounds or higher frequencies, but you may compensate for this by turning the TV up or asking people to repeat themselves.”
More than 40 percent of British adults over the age of 50 have hearing loss, and more than 70 percent of those over the age of 70.
So, what are the signs you’re losing your hearing?
According to Franki, these can be some of the early signs your hearing levels are decreasing:
- You may be experiencing hearing loss if you think other people sound like they’re mumbling, if you often ask people to repeat things for you, or if you have difficulty understanding what is being said in noisy places.
- You might find it hard to keep up with group conversation and get tired from having to concentrate so much.
- Your family or friends may tell you your TV or music is too loud, or they might complain you don’t listen to them.
- Another common sign of hearing loss is having difficulty hearing on the phone.
Franki said: “If you think you might have hearing loss it’s important to take action, as managing hearing loss has been shown to reduce the risk of isolation and mental ill-health problems and help keep you connected to the sounds and people you love.”
You can take an online hearing test on RNID’s website to check your hearing, and if you are still concerned you should follow this up with a trip to the GP who may refer you to an audiologist.
What activities increase your risk of hearing loss?
While many of the factors causing hearing loss are down to genetics, some risk factors can increase the likelihood of losing your hearing.
Franki said: “There are multiple causes of hearing loss including age, noise exposure, certain medications, genetics, viruses, bacterial infections, and ear wax.
“The second biggest cause of hearing loss, after aging, is exposure to loud noise, which is also the most preventable cause.”
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Franki suggests wearing earplugs if you often go out to enjoy live music.
She said: “If you enjoy live music, it’s a good idea to invest in a good pair of reusable earplugs.
“These are designed to filter out the harmful sounds but not compromise sound quality, meaning you can still enjoy live music safely.
“It’s also a good idea to take regular breaks. For example, have five minutes off for every hour of listening. If you go somewhere where the sound level hurts your ears, you should leave.”
You also need to ensure you keep an eye on how loudly you play music through your headphones.
Franki said: “If you listen to music through headphones it’s really important to not exceed the safe volume limit on your device – this normally appears as yellow or red when increasing the volume.
“If you use headphones in a noisy environment (for example on public transport), it might be worth investing in some with noise cancelling technology.
“This means you won’t increase the volume to a dangerous level to try and mask the background noise.
“Again it’s a good idea to take regular breaks, for example if you listen to music for one hour, have a break for five minutes.”
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