Hearing loss in focus: How UK audiologists treat tinnitus

Hearing is one of the five senses which humans (and all animals) rely on for day to day living, working and playing. Yet tinnitus and hearing loss, partial or permanent, happen and they are real problems. A leading hearing loss company in the UK, “Audiologist.co.uk” has an interesting and unique approach, as we will share below:

What are the degrees of hearing loss?

There are different degrees of hearing loss. In mild hearing loss, a person hears most words but misses out some words and certain letters. In moderate hearing loss, one keeps asking others to repeat words. In severe hearing loss, one misses most words and in profound hearing loss, the person does not hear anything at all.

Hearing loss is frustrating and causes physical, psychological and social problems since it affects work, relationships and general communication. Affected people often worry and wonder whether their hearing loss is temporary and reversible. For answers, sufferers need the help of hearing experts for advice or to correct the problem.

What causes hearing loss?

There are several types of hearing loss which differ depending on the cause.

Sensorial hearing loss is a problem of the inner ear. It can occur when the nerves or the cilia (hair-like protrusions) in the inner ear have been damaged by loud noise, trauma, autoimmune disease, a tumour or Meniere’s disease.

Conducive hearing loss is a problem of the outer or middle ear. It is caused either by blockage of the ear canal or by damage to the bones of the middle ear, both of which prevent sound from reaching the inner ear. Obstruction may be caused by excessive wax, a foreign object, infection, fluid, a tumour or abnormal growth on one of the tiny bones in the ear. The auditory nerve and the inner ear are not damaged so they still work if the obstruction is removed. Damage to bones in the middle ear may be due to trauma.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of problems in the inner, middle and outer ear. For example, there could be excessive wax combined with damage to the nerves.

How is hearing loss treated?

Anyone with a problem with hearing loss should see an audiologist, a doctor who specialises in treating hearing problems. The hearing specialist tests the level of hearing and, it is less than expected, he/she performs diagnosis to determine the nature and the cause of the hearing problem.

If the cause of hearing loss is inner ear damage, the audiologist may prescribe a hearing aid or a cochlear implant to fully or partially correct hearing.

If the cause of hearing loss is damage to the bones of the middle ear or obstruction of the ear canal, the specialist will remove wax or foreign objects obstructing the ear canal, or treat any infection causing inflammation or surgically remove any abnormal growth.

If hearing loss is due to mixed causes, the audiologist will decide on the treatment based on the specific problems, solving the problems one after the other.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the medical condition in which the sufferer hears sounds (such as humming, buzzing, grinding, whistling or hissing) from inside their body rather than from an outside source. It can be quite frustrating and sometimes it is linked to hearing problems.

What are the causes of tinnitus?

Tinnitus can just happen. In other cases, it is a symptom of an underlying condition such as circulation problems, ear infection, a tumour in the middle ear, ear wax, noise-induced hearing loss, medicines that are poisonous to the ear, and epilepsy. It can also be caused by otosclerosis in which one of the small bones connected to the ear drum cannot freely vibrate. Another cause is Meniere’s disease (characterized by a spinning sensation, hearing loss, and ear ringing).

How do UK audiologists treat tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be a condition or a symptom of an underlying problem therefore there is no one correct treatment for it. Depending on the cause, treatment may be as simple as irrigating the ears or treating infections. Treatment may also involve correcting hearing with a hearing aid. Once the patient hears the outside world better, he focuses on the world around rather than the inner world, so the tinnitus is ignored. If a tumour is involved, treatment may involve surgery, which may or may not be followed by the use of a hearing aid.

Is a hearing test expensive?

Some audiologists provide free hearing tests. If they find a problem with tinnitus or hearing loss, they then diagnose the problem. Patients will then pay for diagnostics and the subsequent treatment.