Ask an expert about hearing loss (UCLH web chat) 

This one hour web chat took place at:
10.30 - 11.30pm on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

There are over 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, that’s one in six of the population.  If hearing loss is affecting you or someone you know, we had an expert available in our web chat to answer your questions.  Mr Jeremy Lavy is an ear, nose and throat consultant at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital. Mr Lavy specialises in surgery to restore hearing, such as  stapedectomy (a surgical procedure of the middle ear to improve hearing) and cochlear implant, (use of an electronic device to provide sense of sound to profoundly deaf).  He was named as one of the UK’s top doctors by The Times in 2012 for his work that has transformed the lives of children.

You can click in the window below to view a replay of the web chat.

Please read a transcript below.


UCLH
Good morning and welcome to our web chat. We will begin at 10.30am but you can submit your questions now in preparation for the chat. Please note: your questions will not appear in the main chat window until after 10.30am and may be in a queue of questions, please be patient.

Mr Jeremy Lavy will be joining us to take your questions on ‘Hearing Loss’ and will try to answer as many questions as possible within the hour long web chat.
 
Jeremy Lavy
Welcome to our web chat on the subject of ‘Hearing Loss’. My name is Mr Jeremy Lavy and I am ready and waiting to take your questions.
 
Comment From Guest
As myself and my (identical twin) are part of St Thomas' twin Healthy Aging programme we get regular newsletters of the outcomes of some of the research undertaken on twins. The latest one highlights the discovery of a SIK3 gene which apparently is associated with age-related hearing loss. I would like to know if this and perhaps other genes can identify who may be at risk.
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Guest,

Every week it seems another gene associated with hearing loss is discovered. SIK3 is believed to be associated with high frequency hearing loss. Whilst specific genes are associated with different patterns of loss the precise way that hearing is affected will vary with different genes and how they are expressed. With SIK3 I believe this is still being assessed. It is early days yet. 
 
Comment From Guest
Exposure to loud music is said to be a common factor in inducing hearing loss but there are many noisy situations one may be exposed to over a day. Workers in noisy environments are offered ear defenders. Should aging people or those already at risk also take care if they are already losing some of their hearing?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Guest,

Everyone should take care to protect their hearing. Noise exposure is the commonest cause of hearing loss in the adult population. Whenever you have been in a situation where you are exposed to excessive noise and afterwards your ears are ringing this is a sign that this level of noise could be damaging your hearing long term. Wearing ear plugs and moving further back from sound sources are two ways of reducing noise exposure.
Comment From Guest
 
What exactly causes hearing loss?
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Guest,

Hearing loss is caused by a combination of factors both environmental and genetic. If you take a hundred people and expose them all to the same degree of noise exposure some will lose a lot of hearing and others less and some may be unaffected. This is due to varying degrees of robustness of the ears which is genetically determined. Environmental factors include noise, drugs and other chemicals and other factors such as trauma to the ears.
 
Comment From Riyaz
My father will be 80 inmay. he is wearing the common NHS provided hearing aids, but ober the last few months the hearing has deteriorated a lot. what do you suggest to help him? he struggles answering phone calls etc.
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Riyaz, I suggest that if he is experiencing problems he goes along to the hearing aid clinic to have his hearing checked again and the aids adjusted as necessary.
 
Comment From Andrew
I am 61 years old. About 15 years ago, I noticed that loud noises sound distorted to me. I had a hearing test at the local hospital, and was told my hearing had deteriorated, but was normal for my age. I can sill hear distortion on louder classical music passages, and also I have mild tinnitus. Also, I find it difficult to follow conversation where there is background noise, like in a large group of other people talking. Is this auditory, or just my concentration? I assume all this is natural deterioration with my age? Is there anything that could be done to improve it?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Andrew,

This does sound like the type of hearing loss associated with age. The problems you describe are very common for people with some degree of hearing loss. You can protect your ears from further damage by avoiding excessive noises etc but unfortunately you can not turn the clock back but depending on the loss you may be helped by a hearing aid.
 
Comment From Elaine
Thank you for this opportunity to ask a question. My question is a little cunning in that is a bit of a Russian Doll. My mother has developed otosclorosis in both ears and fitting hearing aids is challenging for her and the staff ath her Hearing Clinic, she has been taking Ramipril and Fusoemide for over 30 years am I correct tht these drugs have exacerbated her hearing issues. Alongside the oteosclorosis she has osteoporosis, is this a reason why elderly people struggle with loop systems because the bone density in the skull undermines the technology? Do you find that elderly people with hearing loss are more vulnerable to memory problems because people assume they are losing their marbles when the truth is they just can't communicate with ease any longer? kindest regards a Daughter who has learnt to speak clearly and remind her Care Team that she is Deaf not Daft, perhaps a good strap line for a new initiative to tackle elders isolation and loneliness
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Elaine,

Lots of questions! But there are some useful points here.

Firstly, if your mother does have otosclerosis this can be treated surgically with great success.

Hearing aids can struggle in cases like your mother as she is likely to have both a conductive (blockage) and a cochlear (sensory) component to her loss.

Unfortunately hearing loss is often misinterpreted particularly in the elderly as a cognitive problem. You are right to emphasise that your mother is deaf not daft and deafness awareness is an area where we still have a lot to learn.
 
Comment From Barbara
Mr lavy I have quite an unusual hearing loss. I have lost my hearing gradually all my Life, cause, explanation is unclear one explanation is that it is an age related hearing loss which I have had since birth , another due to chicken pox. When I was first diagnosed 33 yrs ago when I was 17 I had lost approximately 35% of my hearing in both ears ( the loss is almost identical in both ears) on all frequencies / pitches my audiogram is almost straight across at the percentile now at approx 60% on both ears. Is there any treatment available to me. I have always been advised that as it is nerve damage there is nothing they can do except hearing aids Welcome any advice
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Barbara,

Sorry to hear about your hearing loss. The loss you describe is likely to be sensorineural (in fact probably due to damage to your cochlea rather than the nerve). The best treatment available for you would be some form of hearing aid. These days digital hearing aids can really help people in your situation.
 
Comment From Paul2v
I am a cochlear implant user (implanted at Gray's inn road) and one side, despite the NHS NICE guidelines restricting only one side (which were cruely applied to me leaving me deaf in one ear for the rest of my life) do you think this is right or wrong in terms of safety when out and about?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Paul. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The ideal situation is for everyone to be implanted bilaterally restoring hearing to both ears. Sadly, as you know, there are restrictions on funding within the health service and implants are expensive so I can understand why it is restricted to one ear for adults. There has been a lot of work published recently looking at the benefits of bilateral implants and hopefully with time we will be able to make a case for "two implants for all".
 
Comment From Guest
Can picking your ears cause hearing loss?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Guest,
In general sticking anything down your ear canal is dangerous and should be avoided. Your ears are very cleverly designed to keep themselves clean and if they do need cleaning this is best done by a professional.
 
Comment From H
What new measures or surgery is available for the elderly who have hearing loss?
 
Jeremy Lavy
The first thing to do if you are experiencing hearing loss is to have a hearing test then the type and pattern of your loss can be ascertained and the best hearing solution identified. This may be a hearing aid or sometimes surgery.
 
Comment From Guest
I have taken Sodium Valporate (Epilim Chrono 300mgms BD) now for over a year and have noted a degree of tinitus and I am sure a lessened hearing. I am nearly 71 but this change seems to be significant. Should I perhaps see what other drugs may be available that do not cause these side effects or do all AED's pose these sorts of risk?
 
Jeremy Lavy
The first thing to do is have your hearing formally measured then decisions about your AED's can be made more formally
 
Comment From Paul2v
I have a condition that kills off the Central Nervous System and wish to know how it could make my cochlear implant useless eventually since it works off the cochlear itself?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Paul, good question. Actually a cochlear implant only works as well as the hearing part of the brain (the auditory cortex) will allow. The implant stimulates the cochlear nerve but it is the auditory cortex that interprets these sounds and gives them meaning.
 
Comment From john
i having too much ear wax is this normal i am i my late 20s
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi John, the degree of ear wax varies but if it builds up you should consult your GP
 
Comment From Jack
I am planning to take my 10 year old son to a rock concert at a football stadium. Naturally the noise will be heightened. Will this do his hearing any longterm harm?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Jack, the things to consider are distance from the PA system (the further you are away the better - and actually often the sound quality is better too!) and taking some ear plugs so if it is very noisy you can both wear them
 
Comment From Laura
Dear Dr Lavy, I have mixed hearing loss and in my family stapedectomies are common with the oldest generation. I'm in my 40s and use bilateral hearing aids. How do you know when it is time to go the surgical route? e.g. is it clear from imaging, hearing tests, symptoms
 
Jeremy Lavy
If you have otosclerosis stapes surgery is always an option. You can consider it if you are struggling with your aids or you want to explore the potential option of not using aids. Often with people with minor sensory components to their hearing loss successful stapes surgery means that they can get away without aids for much of the time but this does depend on the degree of loss.
 
Comment From H
Thanks for your reply. I'm saying that the diagnosis has been made of hearing loss. But my question was what new developments have been made that will assist the elderly that are beyond hearing aids- have any new pathways been made in surgery for example or new measures to assist hearing?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Without knowing the precise nature of your loss it is difficult to be specific but in general hearing aids are the mainstay of treatment. There have been recent developments in surgically implanted hearing aids but these are still in their infancy.
 
Comment From danielb
i have a profound hearing loss since birth and currently wearing powerful aids. I have recently in the last 8 years have been experiencing short term hearing lost to the point where my hearing aids doesn't compensate. I always get my hearing back again after a few weeks. Do you have any idea what is causing this problem?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Daniel, It is difficult to be sure what is happening. Have you ever had your hearing tested during one of these episodes?
 
Comment From Riyaz
due to my Dad's hearing loss, the volume of tv in our house is on the higher side. would this affect the others in out=r house as far as hearing is concerned?
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Riyaz, it is likely that if the TV was loud enough to damage your hearing the neighbours would also be complaining!
 
Comment From danielb
No I haven't. It is quite difficult to be able to get myself booked in for a hearing test during my hearing loss. I have been having some dizzy spells of late which doesn't last for long. I have thought it might be minares disease
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Daniel, It would be worth seeing your specialist to go into this more
 
Comment From Mike
Can your ears be damaged by air travel
 
Jeremy Lavy
Hi Mike, Your ears are exposed to big pressure changes when you fly and it is important to equalise your ears on take off and landing. This usually happens naturally but you should always take care when flying with a cold
 
Jeremy Lavy
Thank you for joining us today in our live web chat. We hope you found the chat useful and some of your questions have been answered.

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