Ears - Hearing
We appreciate that as people age, some experience problems with their hearing. If you are experiencing problems with your hearing, you may find the following information useful.
When should I have a hearing test?
If you are experiencing problems with your hearing, you should think about having a hearing test. Things to look out for are:
- Not being able to hear people clearly
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Having the volume on the television or radio turned up loud
- Having trouble hearing the doorbell or telephone
- Having a buzzing or whistling sound in your ears
If you experience any of the above, make an appointment to see your GP. Your GP will check your ears for possible infections or blockages.
If you ears are not clear this will need to be sorted first. You may need to have wax removed or clear an ear infection. Many beneficiaries have narrow ear canals and build up of wax is common. This needs to removed. Your GP may refer you to your nearest hospitals Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) department if you have an issue that needs investigating further. They may:
- Refer you for a hearing screening test
- Refer you for a full hearing test
If your GP finds no signs of blockages or infections they will refer you for a hearing test.
Ear wax keeps our ears clean and healthy. It usually works its way out of the ears by itself, but sometimes too much wax can build up and block the ears. Read our factsheet which explains how a build-up of ear wax is treated.
When does hearing change?
Hearing loss happens when signals cannot reach your brain. This can be due to:
- Sensorineural hearing loss (sudden in one ear) – cause by damage to the hairs inside the inner ear or the nerve which takes sounds from the ear to the brain (the auditory nerve). It often comes with age, but can also happen due to injury.
- Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. Usually it affects high sounds, and happens in both ears.
- Conductive hearing loss (gradual in one ear) – happens when sounds cannot pass from your outer ear to your inner ear. This happens temporarily because of blockages like earwax or a treatable middle ear infection, but this kind of hearing loss can also occur permanently through injury or as a result of certain conditions.
NHS hearing aids are free at the point of issue. There are a range of aids to suit different types of hearing loss. Your audiologist will work with you to find the best choice.
If you want to get your hearing tested through the NHS, the first step is to visit your GP. If your GP thinks that you might have hearing loss, they will refer you to see an NHS audiologist.
A private audiologist might offer more options, including access to newer technology or a broader range of suppliers and devices. They can talk you through what is best for you and what would be included in the cost.
Most private audiologists provide free hearing tests, though you will need to pay later if you carry on using their services. Some people find they get through the process more quickly when they choose a private audiologist.
What are the different types of hearing aids?
There are lots of different types of hearing aids. The right kind will depend on what kind of hearing loss you have.
A behind the ear (BTE) aid has two parts – the main part goes behind the ear. This connected to a tube or microtube to an ear mould, tip or cone that sits inside your ear.
A receive in the canal (RIC) aid is like a BTE aid but smaller. An almost invisible wire connects the microphone to the other par, which goes inside your ear canal.
An in the ear (ITE) aids sits completely inside your ear.
A completely in the can (CIC) hearing aid goes deep inside your ear canal, making it invisible. This is the most discreet kind of hearing aid.
The audiologist will recommend the most suitable hearing aid for you when they carry out the hearing test.
Surgically implanted devices
Some people cannot use ordinary hearing aids because their type of impairment means that sounds cannot get through to the inner ear. In these situations there are other devices that can help, by transporting the sound in another way. The two most common examples are:
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) – works by conducting the sound through your skull bone. You will need to have an operation for one to be fitted.
Some people find a BAHA more comfortable because they do not have an ear mould. The NHS will usually only provide the bone anchored hearing aids to people who are not able to wear conventional hearing aids that use an ear mould. You can also get bone-conduction hearing aids that work in the same way but are not surgically implanted.
Cochlear implant (CI) is another kind of device that needs to be surgically implanted. It helps people with severe or profound hearing loss to hear and understand speech by completely by-passing the normal hearing mechanism and stimulating the auditory nerve directly.
Non-surgically implanted bone conduction hearing devices
Surface Bone Conduction (non-surgically implanted): some varieties of these hearing devices receive the sound with a microphone and change the signal into vibrations. With these vibrations, the inner ear can be stimulated allowing patient to hear when the normal channel of the ear is not present. In this fashion, sound waves can bypass the congenital lack of an ear canal and eardrum and stimulate the normally functioning hearing nerve directly. These devices can be used from several months of age onward. The hearing received may allow for normal speech, language and brain development. Some children use this technology until an ear canal is made while others continue to use this technology throughout life if they are not good candidates for creation of an ear canal.
- Elasticated headband (free from natural rubber latex)
- Universal slider
- Built-in safety release
- Snap connector
- Baha SoftWear Pad
- Colour and pattern options
What else can help my hearing?
As well as hearing aids you can purchase assistive equipment to help you around the home. These include:
- Finding the right telephone
- Alerts – door bells or phones – flashing lights or vibrating alarms
- Alarm clocks – vibrating or flashing lights
- Paging system – You can set these to get alerts from a range of difference services like a smoke alarm or alarm clock as well as the doorbells
- FM systems (personal listeners)
- Hearing loops
- Bluetooth neckloop
Will I need to insure my hearing aids
If you have purchased your hearing aids privately, we recommend that you insure your hearing is covered for loss when you are away from home.
Most dispensers can arrange insurance for you cover for you, but you might be able to include your hearing aids in your home contents. The best advice is to discuss insurance cover with your hearing aids audiologist or your home insurer.
Some companies offer stand-alone insurance specifically for hearing aids so it is recommended that you search on-line.
If I paid for my hearing aids privately, would they be exempt from VAT?
No. The cost of standard hearing aids are excluded from VAT relief. Certain specialist equipment designed for people with severely defective hearing which do not constitute ‘hearing aids’ as the term is generally used may be zero-rated. These include:
- Tinitus masters – earpieces which generate a constant noise to mask the effect of ringing in the ears.
- Induction loops – however public address systems will not quality for VAT relief
- TV hearing aids – amplifiers and earpieces which may be connected to a TV set, radio or hi-fi to enable a person with hearing loss to hear the sound without turning up the volume.
- Bone implanted attachments – these are fixed behind the ear of a disabled person to allow sound conjunction through the bone rather than via the middle ear.
Sign-Live is a deaf-owned organisation based in the UK. It is a first-class service provider of online video interpreting services through it Video Relay Service (VRS) and Video Remote interpreting (VRI). This allows deaf people anywhere in the world to communicate with anyone, at any time, using an app which connects them to a qualified British Sign Language interpreter. Visit the Sign Live website for further information.
Where can I get more help?
For more information on hearing loss and want to discuss this with someone who understand, contact Hearing Link helpdesk on 0300 111 1114 or visit their website at:
You can find more about different kinds of hearing aids at:
Visit Action on Hearing Loss who are the UK’s leading charity supporting people with hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus
If you need further help with hearing aids or any advice on hearing loss, please contact the Trust on 01480 474074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org