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Why you should get your hearing checked

From BBC - January 9, 2018

Ten million people in the UK - one in six of us - have some degree of hearing loss.

The main causes are hereditary factors, noise exposure, trauma and ear diseases. And, of course, there is age.

Like getting fatter and going grey, we tend to think of hearing loss as an inevitable part of ageing, and it is certainly true that as you get older your hearing tends to get worse.

More than 40% of people over 50 have some degree of hearing loss, rising to 70% of those over the age of 70.

The good news is that there are things you can do to about it. The bad news is that there are potentially serious consequences if you choose to ignore hearing loss, including an increased risk of dementia.

How does having poor hearing affect people?

I have a very personal interest in this as my hearing is not as good as it used to be.

When I go into pubs or restaurants with lots of reflective surfaces I struggle to hear what is being said. Unlike my children, who are happily shouting at each other, I sit there, perhaps catching one word in three and pretending to follow the conversation.

This is tiring because I am having to concentrate hard, and it is also embarrassing because I know I am missing details and yet I do not want to keep asking them to repeat themselves. "What???" "What????"

For many people, gradual hearing loss is far more than an inconvenience: it can lead to social isolation, which in turn can contribute to mental health problems such as depression.

And there is also mounting evidence that hearing loss can significantly increase your risk of developing dementia.

So it's really important that you do not ignore it. Yet on average, people in the UK wait for a staggering 10 years before they seek treatment.

According to the charity, Action on Hearing Loss, only around 40% of people who need hearing aids have them.

This may be because their GP has not referred them to an NHS audiology service, or because they are worried about being given a large and very obtrusive hearing aid.

What are the signs you are having hearing problems?

Although hearing aids are far more discreet and effective than they used to be, many people are still reluctant to wear them.

Another reason why many people do not get treatment is because they simply do not notice that their hearing is declining.

It's surprisingly tricky to spot gradual hearing loss as our brains are very good at compensating, so we are not even aware of how much we have lost until things are quite far advanced.

Warning signs you may be losing it include:

Having the TV on very loud

Struggling to follow conversations

What you can do to hear better

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