RECOGNISING THE PROBLEM
- Do you turn up the volume on the television louder than normal?
- Do you sometimes fail to hear the telephone or doorbell ring?
- Do you know that people are talking but cannot understand every word?
- Do you have difficulty hearing in noisy surroundings?
We all produce earwax (cerumen) naturally. Its function is to protect sensitive skin tissue inside the ear. But when it blocks the outer ear canal our hearing is dulled. If you think you have this problem, make an appointment to see your doctor who will check your ears. You will then be given advice and asked to make an appointment with the practice nurse.
As we get older our hearing becomes poorer as the physical mechanism deteriorates; sometimes hearing loss is also accompanied by noises in the ear (tinnitus). Whilst nothing can be done to repair the damage, incoming sound can be significantly amplified by a hearing aid. These devices are available both on the NHS and privately and vary both in size and performance with some of the latest designs having the capacity to be individually tuned to suit your particular hearing loss. If you decide to opt for one of these, take your time in deciding what suits you best and try and speak to existing users to find out how well they work.
People working in noisy environments should take precautions to protect their ears from the long-term effects of noise. Wear ear-defenders where necessary. Consult your health and safety or environmental health officer if you are worried.
Children who suffer frequent colds and ear infections may be prone to a build-up of fluid within the middle ear cavity. The condition does often improve with time, but in severe or persistent cases the doctor may refer a child to an ENT specialist to see if a grommet is required. This is a small tube which is fitted into the eardrum (while the child is under a general anaesthetic) and allows the middle ear to be aerated.