Defeating deafness

Defeating deafness


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As with all areas, technology is continuously improving, and hearing aids are no exception. Defeating Deafness, the UK’s medical charity dedicated to helping hard of hearing people through medical research and education, is supporting several groundbreaking research projects, including projects aimed at improving hearing aids with new technology.

We have Brian Moore, one of the UK's leading hearing aid researchers, and Leah Williams from Defeating Deafness joining us to answer all your questions related to coping with hearing loss.




Usha wants to know: "what is the latest technological advancement available now for hearing aids?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Manufacturers are continually adding new features to digital hearing aids by updating the software or programmes in the hearing aid. Two recent advances are adaptive directional microphones and feedback cancellation. With adaptive directional microphones the hearing aid will work out the direction of the most prominent interfering sounds and will then cancel out those sounds allowing better understanding of speech and noise. The second advance feedback cancellation means that the annoying whistling sounds that sometime occur with hearing aids are suppressed. This allows more amplification to be achieved to ensure that the person can hear sounds even for frequencies where they have a very large hearing loss....




...Leah says: Digital aids are now available on the NHS in many areas of the UK. But in some areas the waiting list can be very long. This is partly because more people want to access this technology and partly due to a lack of resources in the NHS. Progress is being made all the time.




Priyonce wants to know: "Who should I consult if I am worried about my hearing? Can you have check up's and how often should you go? "

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: If you are having difficulty hearing then you should visit your GP or family doctor. They will ask you some questions about your hearing and do some basic tests. They may then refer you to a local audiology or hearing aid department.




Lance wants to know: "What's the hearing equivalent of 20/20 vision?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: That would mean having hearing as good as that of a young teenager with no history of ear disease and no known exposure to loud sounds. In practice hearing starts worsening from a very young age and even teenagers have lost some of their hearing.




Seb wants to know: "Is everday life generally louder today than it was 20 years ago? Are we all more likely to suffer from hearing difficulties?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Generally noise in the work place has decreased - factories are generally quieter and in noisy situations people are give hearing protection. However loud sounds during leisure activities have become much more of a problem, especially clubs and discos. Exposure to intense sounds of this type can result in hearing loss which may only show up in later life.




Danni wants to know: "Can hearing loss be corrected in surgery as eyesight can be?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Some types of hearing loss can be corrected surgically. This applies to what is called "conductive" hearing loss, where the sound is not transmitted properly to the inner ear. E.g. problems with the tiny bones in the middle ear can be treated by surgery. However the most common cause of hearing loss, damage to the inner ear, cannot be treated by surgery for people with profound or total hearing loss it is possible to have a device called a Cochlear implant put in by a surgeon. This device electrically stimulates the auditory nerve and can restore hearing to a limited extent.




Lucy wants to know: "I have a 70 year old mother-in law who has major problems hearing but won't do anything - how can I persuade her to get help & where should she go? "

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: First of all be sensitive, patient and supportive. Some people find it very difficult to accept that they are losing their hearing particularly if it linked to their age. There is a new Defeating Deafness fact sheet on hearing aids which talks about some of the common signs of hearing loss and you could try using this to spark a conversation you could also point out that if she gets a hearing aid it might help her join in family discussions and maintain an active social life. For a free copy of the fact sheet call 0808 808 2222 or email




Shaznay wants to know: "I go out most weekends to night clubs and sometimes have ringing in my ears the next day. Should I be worried about the damage being done to my ears? What advice do you have - I can't really wear ear plugs on a night out!"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: I would be distinctly worried if I were you! These ringing sounds are definitely a sign of damage to your ears. It is possible to get discreet ear plugs which fit in the ear like a very small hearing aid and which produce a natural but quieter sound. These are called ear plugs for musicians and I strongly recommend them!




... Leah says: You should also take regular breaks from the dance floor to give your ears a rest. Aim for at least 10 minutes break every hour. Try spending some time in the chill out room if there is one and don't stand too near to the speakers.




Sally wants to know: "My mother want to purchase a good state of the art digital hearing aid. "

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: First she should have her hearing properly checked to make sure that a hearing aid is needed and to determine what type would be best for her. It is possible to get very good digital hearing aid on the NHS. However if she wants an in the ear type, she may need to go to a private dispenser.




Brian wants to know: "I have recently almost completely lost my hearing. I would really like to learn sign language so that I can still communicate with people. I haven't been to school or college for 50 years so I am really worried about this. Any advice?"

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: There are lots of places which run courses in sign language and it's great to see that you are making the effort to do it. It's a good way of meeting other people with hearing difficulties...




...Brian says: However you should make sure that there is nothing that can be done to improve your hearing. Have you consulted your Doctor and have you tried hearing aids?




Julie wants to know: "I still feel the odd one out at work as I feel everyone looks at my hearing aids, and treats me so differently. They look frustrated when they have to repeat things more than once. How do I tell them I am unhappy without upsetting them. Any ideas would be great"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Many people do not realise that hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal. You need to explain to them that even with your hearing aids you still have some difficulty in understanding speech and that they need to speak distinctly. I have produced a cd that demonstrates to normally hearing people what it is like to have a hearing loss. For more information contact Defeating Deafness as previously mentioned.




Craig wants to know: "Is hearing loss inevitable as we enter old age?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: It's not inevitable. A very few elderly people have perfect good hearing. Unfortunately the great majority of people do develop a hearing loss as they get older.




Bobella wants to know: "My partner snores so loudly it can keep me awake all night. I have taken to wearing ear plugs in bed. This can make my ears quite sore. Could this be damaging my ears?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: The skin of your ears could be damaged by the ear plugs especially if they are made of hard material. You should try using soft foam plugs, or getting some ear plugs that are especially made to fit your own ears. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about this problem.




Usha wants to know: "What precautionary measures should I carry out to avoid lost of hearing/deafness?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: You should avoid exposing yourself to very loud sounds especially for long periods of time. I always wear ear plugs if I know I am going to a very noisy place or when I use power tools or mow the lawn. Generally the healthier you are the more likely you are to maintain your hearing - so take some exercise and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables!




Peter wants to know: "My wife drives me mad sometimes & I know I need a hearing aid but I can't hear her when she's nagging - Can you turn a digital hearing aid on & off? "

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Not only can you turn them on and off but you could have a special program for listening to your wife which you can select to make her voice quieter or even totally inaudible.




Priya wants to know: "My friends and work colleagues often comment that I talk particularly loudly. I don't realise. Do you think I may be getting hard of hearing?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: This may possibly be a sign of hearing loss but it is impossible to be sure. If you are in doubt you should consult your doctor.




Susan wants to know: "Is it true that using cotton buds in your ears could make you deaf? "

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: There is an old saying that you should never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Putting objects like cotton buds in your ears can damage the delicate skin of the ear canal and it won't actually help get rid of wax. Used carelessly you could even puncture the eardrum!




Mary wants to know: "I am getting a hearing aid later this year due to hereditary hearing loss (I blame my mother!) but wondered if you had any hints for dealing with my bad tinnitus as well? "

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: Hearing aids sometimes help with tinnitus because the relatively loud sounds that you hear through the aid make the tinnitus quieter. In a few cases the louder sounds can actually make the tinnitus go away temporarily, which can help you get to sleep.




... Leah says: Defeating Deafness produce a free information pack on tinnitus. If you would like a copy contact us 0808 808 2222 or email us on




Jules wants to know: "Can tinnitus be treated?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: There are some treatments but they are not always effective - what works for one person may not work for another, as there are many forms of tinnitus. Some hospital departments have specialist tinnitus clinics who can advise on your specific problem. Ask your GP to be referred to your local clinic.




Fiona wants to know: "Are hearing aids easy to fit?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: The physical fit depends on taking a good ear impression and having an ear mould made. This is a specialist job but can usually be done effectively. The hearing aid also needs to be adjusted to suit the individual. This requires "programming" by a skilled audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. Sometimes repeated adjustments over several visits are needed to obtain a satisfactory fit.




Marianne wants to know: "What are the tell tail signs of a baby having hearing problems."

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: Most babies with normal hearing will already have developed an awareness of sound by the time they are born, and they may react to loud noise by blinking, crying or sudden movements. By about six weeks they will begin to react to voices, either by turning in the direction of the noise or by making small movements in time with the rhythm of the voice. If you have any concerns about your childs hearing it is important to see your GP or family doctor as soon as possible. They will examine the ears to see whether your child has glue ear or a wax blockage. They may refer you to a specialist for further tests.




Jules wants to know: "What is glue ear?"

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: Glue ear is a build up of fluid in the middle ear space. 80% of all pre-school children suffer from glue ear at some time. many will experience temporary deafness or deterioration of hearing as a result.




treasure wants to know: "How do you get digital hearing aids on the N.H.S"

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: You will first need to see your GP who can then refer you to a audiology department. All NHS audiology departments will have a waiting period and you will go on a waiting list for an appointment.




Susan wants to know: "What causes deafness?"

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: There are many causes of hearing loss. The most common one is damage to the delicate structures in the inner ear, especially the specialised cells called hair cells. These can be damaged by intense sounds, by various chemicals and by insufficient blood supply. If they are destroyed they do not recover and hearing loss is a result.




Sandy wants to know: "Are hearing problems genetic"

Brian and Leah said:


Leah says: Some hearing problems can be inherited or have a genetic component. This is an area that Defeating Deafness researchers are looking into. It is possible that gene therapies will be developed to treat some types of inherited hearing loss.




Maria wants to know: "Is there an average age when your hearing is worn out & is it moving toward an earlier or later start in life? "

Brian and Leah said:


Brian says: There isn't an age at which your hearing is worn out - it just tends to get worse as you get older. However many young people today are damaging their hearing by exposing themselves to intense sounds at clubs and raves.


Brian and Leah


Thanks for your interesting questions and patience. Have a brilliant weekend!

Moderator Said:   Thanks to Leah & Brian for their invaluable advice today, maybe we could all learn to be a little more understanding. There are many more questions that we have been unable to answer yet due to their complexity & individuality. However, Defeating Deafness have kindly agreed to post the answers to the remaining questions on their website So please log on in a few days and your answers will await you. All that remains is to say many thanks to Leah & Brian & we look forward to "chatting" again soon.

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