Adult Hearing Problems

Adult onset hearing loss is a common concern. A person with hearing loss may not notice the problem early on, however their family and friends often will. They will sometimes complain about the TV or radio being too loud, the person not listening and there may be communication problems.

Hearing loss in adults can be accompanied by ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear called tinnitus. There is usually not any pain. The loss is most often noticed in noisy environments such as restaurants where the loss of hearing makes it difficult to ‘filter out’ other sounds and concentrate on speech. 

The consequences of adult onset hearing loss can be significant. People may have trouble with their important relationships, the ability to work can be compromised, as can safety in the home and the outside world. Failing to hear a smoke alarm or oncoming vehicle can lead to dire consequences. Some people become quite depressed and withdraw from social interactions. It is not something to be taken lightly and there is often something that can be done. 

Sudden onset of hearing loss in an adult or child is considered an “Ear Emergency” and requires assessment and treatment as soon as possible. There may be interventions early on that can improve the chances of hearing recovery. These options are reduced or become less effective as time passes. 

What is the cause? 

The most common cause of hearing loss is ageing. Doctors call this “presbyacusis”. It is usually due to degeneration of the inner ear hair cells that are responsible for hearing. Typically the onset is gradual and involves higher frequencies to begin with. 

Noise can also be a factor. Brief or prolonged exposure to noise can cause a certain pattern of hearing loss. Illnesses may also impact on hearing loss and in some cases medications used to treat serious infections and cancers can impact on hearing. 

How can we work out what the problem is?

A clear history of the hearing loss and an examination of the ear goes a long way towards determining the cause of the problem. Usually a hearing test and in some cases a scan may be needed to further clarify the cause of the problem. Dr Morrissey can help you get to the bottom of the problem in most circumstances. 

What are the solutions?

Dr Morrissey can help you understand the problem and its potential solutions. In some cases the hearing loss is temporary and simple interventions can lead to improvements in hearing.

An awareness of the hearing loss can lead to simple lifestyle modifications which negate it's impact. Hearing loss related to age and noise exposure is usually initially managed with hearing aids. With improvements in technology, Hearing aids are becoming more effective and discrete. In those with severe hearing loss there may be surgical options available if hearing aids are ineffective. 

Prevention is always better than cure, hence for those exposed to significant noise in their work or home environments, hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or headphones is usually a good idea. 

Where a sudden hearing loss occurs over a period of less than 2 weeks there may be medications that can help improve the chances of recovery in some cases.