Hearing loss can affect people at any age. One in six adults may have some degree of hearing loss increasing to three in four over the age of 75. Younger children can also be affected, sometimes due to fluid in the middle ear (glue ear) or ear infections.  Rarely, congenital problems or illnesses in early childhood can cause hearing loss.

Normal hearing
Sounds travel down the ear canal to the ear drum which focuses the vibrations into the chain of three small bones (ossicles) and onwards to the inner ear (cochlea).  This acts like a transformer converting the vibration of the sound waves into electrical impulses which travel along the auditory nerve to the brain

Types of deafness
Hearing loss may result from a conductive cause (outer or middle ear problem) or a sensorineural cause (inner ear problem). Conductive hearing loss in children is often due to ‘glue ear’ which occasionally can be treated with an operation such as grommet insertion.  A perforation in the ear drum may cause a hearing loss and so surgical repair by myringoplasty may improve the hearing.  The small bones within the middle ear are a very delicate structure and damage to these will cause hearing loss – they can sometimes be repaired surgically as in ossiculoplasty.  Sometimes these bones become fixed and so stapedectomy may be necessary to replace the stapes part of the chain of bones. 
Hearing aids are the usual treatment for a sensorineural hearing loss and we can access the very latest in digital hearing aid technology including the recent ‘open fit’ hearing aids through our audiology colleagues.   Sometimes, conventional hearing aids cannot be worn so a bone anchored hearing aid www.cochlear.co.uk or www.oticon.com may be an alternative option. If the hearing is worse in one ear, a MRI scan of the ears and brain may be required.

When an ENT Specialist opinion is advisable
Children with hearing loss can fall behind at school so early diagnosis is important and may require treatment.
You should seek advice urgently (within 24-48 hours) if you have a sudden hearing loss, as treatment should be started as soon as possible if it is due to a disturbance to the inner ear.  Intratympanic steroids may be an effective way of maximising the chances of recovery of the hearing.
Hearing loss in one ear only should be investigated and treatment may be possible.
Gradual hearing loss is common as we get older but sometimes appears in early adult life.  Measuring the level of hearing with an audiogram helps to establish if a hearing aid might be helpful and ruling out other causes.


The North Hampshire ENT Partnership is a team of consultants specialising in a wide spectrum of diseases and disorders that affect the Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) including snoring and sleep disorders, cosmetic and skin surgery.


Our surgeons provide specialist care by drawing from the 50 plus years of combined NHS experience and the many areas of individual specialist expertise available within the partnership.