It is estimated that 10 million people in the UK, young and old, suffer from some form of hearing loss and sixty per cent of these (six million) would benefit from hearing aids. Sadly only about a quarter actually have them even though there is much research linking untreated hearing loss with poor performance at work, difficulty with personal relationships, social isolation and even depression and ill health.
The most common reason is that people do not believe their hearing loss is serious enough to warrant hearing aids, a fact borne out by statistics that show it is often as long as ten years before someone with hearing loss eventually seeks the help of an audiologist.
Once they do decide to take action they must chose whether to have their hearing tested with the NHS which in most parts of the country will provide free hearing aids if they are necessary or seek an appointment with a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists in the private sector.
Both professionals will first of all examine the outer part of the ear using an instrument called an otoscope. This is a painless procedure which allows the audiologist to check that there are no physical obstructions (such as earwax) which are preventing sound from reaching the ear drum. Audiologists are trained to recognise symptoms of any diseases which need specialist help and may refer to a GP or ENT Specialist.
Next the audiologist will conduct the actual hearing test by asking the patient to listen, through headphones, to a series of tones played at differing frequencies and volumes. How well these are heard will indicate to the audiologist if the patient has hearing loss and what will be needed to correct it.