Hearing Problems and Deafness

Hearing loss can affect people of any age.

One in six adults experience some degree of hearing loss, which increases to three in four above the age of 75 years.

Children are commonly affected by “glue ear” (fluid in the middle ear), but some are born with a hearing loss (congenital).

Hearing loss may also occur as a result of a serious viral or bacterial infection including meningitis.

Other common reasons for hearing loss include, noise exposure, wax in the ear, ear infections, a hole in the ear drum (tympanic membrane perforation) but sometimes a cause cannot be found.

Types of Deafness

The causes of deafness can be broadly grouped into:

  • Conduction problems of the ear canal and middle ear (conductive hearing loss). A conductive hearing loss can occur due to wax blocking the ear canal, infection, a collection of fluid in the middle ear, a hole in the ear drum, trauma or impaired movement/disruption of the bones of hearing (ossicles) in the in the middle ear.
  • Sensorineural problems, which are related to the translation of sound waves into an electrical signal within the inner ear, and their transmission from the inner ear to the brain. There are many causes, the commonest being age related hearing loss (presbyacusis), and less commonly viral infections, trauma, drugs, noise exposure and some congenital causes. Some inner ear problems are reversible, but loss may be permanent. Rarely, it may be due to a growth or tumour in the brain.
  • Mixed hearing loss, where the two co-exist


  • All patients with a hearing loss require investigation by an ENT surgeon.
  • Investigations include baseline hearing tests (a pure tone audiogram and tympanometry) and on occasion scans.

Treatment of Hearing Problems

Treatment depends on the cause.

Treatment may simply require ear microsuction to remove impacted wax from the ear canals.

In children “glue ear” that does not naturally drain may be treated by grommet insertion. For some, a hearing aid is an option.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss is an EMERGENCY

If hearing loss occurs suddenly seek advice immediately from a specialist. It is an emergency, just like a sudden loss of vision. If treated quickly the likelihood of regaining hearing increases significantly. This applies even if the hearing loss is just in one ear.

Please click HERE for more information on the ENTUK website



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