What Are The Signs Children Are Struggling With Hearing?

Most people associate hearing loss with ageing, but lots of children also suffer from not being able to hear as well as they should, which can often go under the radar. 

As many as one in five youngsters have childhood hearing loss, which can affect their speech, language, social and educational development. 

That is why it is essential to look out for signs of poor hearing, so parents can book their children a hearing test and get the help they need right away.

Not responding to their name

One of the most common signs mums, dads and teachers should pay attention to is whether the child responds to their name when called. 

Sometimes children can seem as though they are in their own little world, and need their name repeated multiple times, each call getting louder, before they reply. 

Though many kids can become distracted in an activity, if this is a recurring problem, it could be a sign that they cannot hear if they are not fully paying attention to the person speaking. 

Watching lips

Children’s hearing loss often gets overlooked, as they can remain compliant and seem to follow instructions. However, guardians might notice the youngsters always watch their lips when they are talking. 

This could indicate they are not fully hearing what is being said, but instead are interpreting it from lip reading. 

It is worth trying to work out whether they are still able to follow instructions when they are not looking directly at the person speaking. 

During the pandemic when everyone had to wear face masks, this problem would have seemed more pronounced as they were not able to see people’s lips moving. 

Though they are no longer required by law, many people continue to wear face coverings to protect themselves against Covid-19. If the children appear to struggle more with interactions when masks are being worn, this could indicate they are unable to hear properly. 

Delayed speech or communication

Delayed speech and language could be a sign of many things, including developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, or intellectual disability. 

However, it could also suggest a hearing loss problem. This might only be detected when a speech and language therapist rules out other possible conditions, as they may not speak as well as their peers because they have not been able to hear the right pronunciations of words. 

At the same time, they might not be able to communicate well or interact in two-way conversations, as they struggle to hear what the other person is saying. 

This could also result in them not contributing much in class, mispronouncing words, speaking too quietly, or having problems with friends, as they are not able to engage in full conversations and, therefore, do not know how to respond appropriately.

Why A Simple Test Could Save Your Hearing Altogether

Going for a hearing test is a wise thing for anyone to do as they get older, not least if you do have a feeling that you are not hearing as well as you used to.  

If you feel this is happening to you, even a little bit, this is reason enough to get your hearing checked to see if there is a problem that can be fixed, or if you might need a hearing aid.  

A recent article in the Huffington Post listed four particular warning signs, all of which it said were ‘red flags’ that indicated people experiencing them should get their ears checked out urgently. Not doing so could make the problem much worse.

The first of these is struggling to follow what is being said to you in a conversation, described to the paper by director of Audiology Access & Standard of Care for Cochlear Americas Terry Zwolan as a “big one”.

He stated: “This can include finding it difficult to hear in the presence of background noise, and regularly asking people to repeat what they’ve said or mishearing often.”

A second common sign is when you need to turn the TV or radio up louder than you used to, which you might only notice when you see the numbers on the volume control that you have raised it to. Others may bring the matter to your attention by stating that it is too loud for them.

Ringing in the ears is another common problem. This is a condition known as tinnitus and while it can sometimes be only temporary, it may be persistent and a sign that something is seriously wrong. Tinnitus isn’t always a sign of hearing loss, but it could be – and you should certainly get checked out if the problem persists.

The fourth problem raised in the article was difficulty in hearing common everyday sounds. It quoted audiologist Amy Bishop, who said: “Some folks say they have trouble hearing common everyday sounds, like their turn signal, boiling water, or the laundry machine chime.”

If you suffer from one of these issues, it does not mean your hearing is necessarily in terminal decline. For example, you may have a problem like excessive ear wax, which can impede your hearing unless it is removed.

Should this be necessary, you should let the professionals do this as most DIY attempts to remove earwax can be counterproductive. They can damage the drum or ear canal, or push wax further in (such as trying to gouge them out with cotton wool buds). Severe ear wax can be a particular problem as a total blockage can lead to an infection.

Ear wax is not the only possible cause of infection and if this is the case, treatment may help restore your hearing fully. Neglecting such a problem, on the other hand, could lead to matters getting worse and permanent damage, maybe even complete loss of hearing in an ear, as a result.

If you do find you need help such as a hearing aid, do not despair; it is better to know this and you should not feel stigmatised. It is better to have a hearing aid than to struggle with an everyday sense that you had previously taken for granted.

Could Invisible Hearing Aids Be Your Very Best Option?

If you are suffering from hearing loss, it makes sense to get hearing aids. Rather than struggling to get by and asking people to repeat themselves, you can enjoy the benefits of having your hearing restored to what it used to be.

However, this can bring a problem. Hearing loss is associated with ageing and many people will accept this as a part of getting older in later life, for younger folk who develop hearing impairments, the wearing of a visible aid can bring a sense of embarrassment and stigma.

There are various solutions to this, of course. Some learn to embrace it and live with it, regarding it the same way as wearing glasses. Others, especially women, might grow their hair longer and fuller to hide it.

However, these responses all depend on the assumption that their hearing aids will be very obviously visible, sticking out like a sore thumb and therefore being a constant source of insecurity or even embarrassment.  

What many do not know is what invisible hearing aids could do for them. The fact that these exist at all, let alone being available in different varieties from various makers, is not widely known.

They are not invisible because of some new technology taken from the pages of sci-fi novels or adapted from some advanced military technology; instead, they are located entirely inside the ear canal, with no external parts whatsoever.

If you have one of these fitted, you can keep your need for a hearing aid entirely secret from whoever you wish. The only clue is a tiny, inconspicuous wire leading to the outer ear that enables you to remove the aid when necessary.

What should be noted about these concealed hearing aids is that the reason it is possible to hide them in the ear canal is due to their smaller scale, which does bring some compromises. It means the battery capacity and overall power is less, which does restrict them to those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

The idea of innovative hearing aids that are hard to spot does not stop there, of course. A Bloomberg subscriber-only newsletter has claimed that air pods, currently used as wireless means of listening to music or the radio, could be adapted to act as hearing aids, with an embedded ‘hearing aid’ mode.

According to newsletter writer Mark Gurman, Apple’s new iOS 18 AirPods, due to be released in the autumn of 224, will have this feature.

However, as Yahoo News notes, this sort of claim has been made before and has not yet come to fruition; the Wall Street Journal predicted in 2021 that the 2022 Airpod Pro would include this feature, but it did not, which leaves open the question of whether the idea was in development and after three years of extra work will finally appear later this year.

Clearly Airpods that double as hearing aids would be a novel way of concealing a hearing issue. But you don’t need to wait to see if the speculation that proved wrong in 2021 is right this year to aid your hearing without the world being able to see.

The Three Hallmarks Of The Best Hearing Aids

The objective of a hearing aid is simple to explain but often surprisingly difficult to quantify, and this is one of several reasons why there are so many different types of devices available on the market and in the hands of experts.

These different types of hearing aids are more suited in terms of size, shape, form factor, features, audio level, power and functionality for different types of people with varying challenges to their hearing and lifestyle factors.

Some people need more powerful hearing aids to tackle particular hearing challenges, whilst others would like aids that are largely inconspicuous and/or can be worn for a long period of time.

Determining these needs and ensuring that someone is a candidate for hearing aids is part of the process, but determining if a particular device has helped is complex, and requires a mix of audiometry, real ear measurement and the experience of the person wearing them.

Particularly with regards to the latter, the best hearing aids for a particular person will succeed in these three ways.

 

Usage

Probably the easiest satisfaction metric to mention, the more willing someone is to use their hearing aids, the better they are serving that particular person’s needs and the more effectively they are helping to prevent further hearing difficulties.

Conversely, if someone does not want to wear their hearing aids on a regular basis, it could be a sign that there is something wrong with them that means they need alterations or even replacing entirely.

People opt not to wear their hearing aids for a range of reasons. These can include the fit, how comfortable they are not only to wear but to use, and whether they feel like they are having a meaningful effect on a person’s ability to engage with the aural world around them.

Most people will need some time to get used to their new hearing aids, and it can be common for people to build up to wearing them constantly, similar to how people take time to get used to their glasses.

However, if they are regularly not being used, this is a sign that they are not meeting a person’s needs, or in doing so is providing such discomfort that it is preferable to not wear them.

 

Recognising Speech

Much like how an eye test can determine in relatively consistent conditions how effectively a prescription pair of glasses is working, the best way to determine how well a hearing aid is working is by seeing how well it aids the recognition of speech.

A hearing instrument does more than merely amplify sound, and the complex interplay between the ear and the brain when it comes to processing speech means that the only way to know if it is installed and calibrated correctly is to have a conversation and see how easy or difficult it is to follow.

 

Satisfaction

Finally, the best judge of a hearing aid’s effectiveness is the person themselves. If they are happy with how they feel and the improvements in hearing, that is a good sign that the hearing aid is working as it should be.

This typically requires a self-report assessment in a follow-up appointment, talking about how it feels and any problems they have felt.

Ear We Go: More TikTok Bad Earwax Advice To Ignore

Ear wax is a naturally occurring substance and is vital for maintaining your ear health, as it helps capture debris that might otherwise get inside your ear and cause an infection or blockage. But sometimes excess wax can be a problem in itself.

The question then is what you should do about it. The obvious solution might be to see a specialist and have it treated through means such as microsuction, but, as ever, there are lots of online influencers out there with their homespun ‘life hacks’ who will tell you they have a better way.

When not telling you Vitamin C wards off Covid better than the vaccination or that a few mashed vegetables put through a blender can clear up skin problems, they will turn their attention to ear wax. Not only can their advice often be ineffective, but sometimes downright dangerous.

The latest instance has been highlighted by CBS News in the US. It has picked up on the new TikToker trend of ‘ear cleaning’.

No, this is not a repeat of the advice you were given as a child to “wash behind your ears” before school. Instead, it is the idea that involves scraping your ears clean of wax.

Therein lies the problem. As stated above, while excess wax can be an issue, the substance is there for a reason, which is to protect your ears. Remove it all and you will be an open goal for every big, bit of dust or anything else that can get in.

Discussing this online trend, Dr. Brian Lamb from Allegheny Health Network said: “It makes us cringe, but you don’t realise, your ear is a very delicate organ.”

Explaining that ears are meant to be self-cleaning and that ear wax has a purpose, he added: “It helps capture things that are flying in there that aren’t supposed to be there from dusts to even as gross as it sounds, bugs.” 

Not only is this a problem, but the home-made tools used to scrape the inside of the ear can also do damage in some very sensitive spots, with potential for long-term harm.

“If you’re scraping incorrectly you can actually cut the skin which can then lead to bacterial infections,” Dr Lamb warned, concluding. “You could, in the worst-case scenario, actually puncture your drum.”

Of course, it is not just on TikTok that social media viewers can see earwax being removed. YouTube does it too. But in the latter case, you may be more likely to see something different from an influencer telling you ‘how to do it yourself’; instead you can see lots of videos of the procedure being done by professionals, including microsuction.

Some people get a strange kick out of watching such videos, in the same way, many enjoy YouTube footage of things like pimples being popped and blackheads squeezed out.

The take-home message you should get from such videos is that when earwax gets bad, you should get help from the professionals. That’s how it should be. Whatever you do, never get your advice on earwax (or any medical matter) from TikTok.

Eargym Founder Explains Regrets Over Her Hearing Loss

Realising and accepting that you have hearing loss is not someone anybody wants to do. Just like other senses declining, the feeling of deterioration and its association with ageing can be a very hard thing to come to terms with.

However, not doing so can lead to greater regrets afterwards, a point made in an interview with Hello Magazine by Amanda Philpott, the founder of the online hearing care platform Eargym.

Ms Philpott founded the site after coming to acknowledge her own problems with hearing at the age of 52. A senior NHS manager, she realised she had a problem when attending a Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and suddenly realised what had caused recent communication difficulties she had been experiencing.

“I put it down to the stress of the role taking its toll on me, but I was becoming increasingly irritated by people muttering in meetings,” she explained, adding: “I was frustrated by other people’s lack of communication skills before I realised I was the common thread.”

For that reason, the things she learned at the conference and her sudden realisation that the problem had been with her and not others came as a major shock, leaving her wishing she could have repeated the previous few years of her career.

She remarked: “If I’d sorted out my hearing, I think I could have handled things much better because I wouldn’t have had that additional unrecognised source of stress.”

This experience goes to show just why it is wise to book a free hearing test; not only does it mean you can get help for any ear problems you have, ranging from wax removal to having a hearing aid fitted, but you can also avoid associated problems like stress caused by not hearing what people are saying in work or social situations.

Wearing a hearing aid is not something most people are happy to do, especially if they are not in old age. Ms Philpott noted that the stigma that comes through the association of hearing aids with later life is a major deterrent to seeking help.

However, she noted, while the average age for a first-time user of a hearing aid is 75, it takes on average ten years from the onset of hearing decline to seeking help, so that figure could be a lot lower if people act sooner.

Speaking of her own experience of using hearing aids, Ms Philpott said it has been transformative of her quality of life. “I’d always hear birdsong on my dog walks, but with my hearing aids it was like being in an arena filled with birdsong,” she said.

Getting private help for hearing issues is not something everyone would think of doing. However, a recent RNID report found that many NHS service providers do not offer free hearing tests, despite clinical recommendations that they should.

Those who do get treatment privately, such as earwax removal, may find they are very glad they did. One such case is that of Helen Kendall, a 76-year-old from Bath, who already uses hearing aids and needs regular wax removal, or else she is unable to fully function as a choir member, in her art group and book club, or her voluntary work at a food bank.

Discussing her decision to pay for wax removal, she told Somerset Live: “It made a huge difference to my hearing and quality of life.

5 Other Causes Of Hearing Loss Apart From Loud Noises

Most people who experience hearing loss put it down to listening to music too loudly, going to too many concerts, or working with heavy machinery. All of these noisy environments can be detrimental to hearing, but they are not the only reasons for needing a hearing aid test.

To find out what the other causes of hearing loss are, read on. 

Head injury

It is common knowledge that sounds over 85 dBA can lead to deafness, as it damages the hair cells. This means signals are not being sent to the brain as effectively as they should be. 

However, did you know that having a head injury could also lead to hearing loss?

Having a blow to the head can cause the eardrum to rupture, which means the signals from the ear to the brain cannot get through. 

An eardrum can rupture due to sudden changes in pressure, receiving a knock, an ear infection, being poked, or even extremely loud noises. 

 

Age

Age plays a big factor when it comes to hearing loss. Of the 11 million people in the UK who struggle with their hearing, eight million are 60 or older.

This is typically due to changes in the inner ear over the years. At the same time, some medical conditions and medications can affect hearing, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Abnormalities of the middle ear can get worse as people age, while long-term exposure to loud sounds can have a cumulative effect on the ear. 

Therefore, many of the 6.7 million people in Britain who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid are in their older years.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is constant interruption to sleep due to the walls of the throat relaxing and narrowing. This means normal breathing is disturbed and it can lead to gasping or loud snoring. 

Research has shown it is also linked with hearing loss, with sleep apnoea increasing the risk by 21 per cent, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Otolaryngology

This could be to do with a drop in the blood flow to the inner ears, which causes the blood vessels and cells to die, reducing hearing in the long-term. 

Medications

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association revealed there are around 200 medications that can cause damage to hearing. These include some anticancer drugs and antibiotics, while antimalarial mefloquine and beta blockers timolol and metoprolol can lead to tinnitus. 

It is recommended to have your hearing tested before starting on a course of certain medications to get an idea of what your baseline hearing is and whether it deteriorates with the drug. 

Inflammation in the mouth 

If there is any inflammation in the mouth, this can be linked with poor hearing, as it narrows the blood vessels and affects the blood flow going to the ear hair cells. 

Therefore, tooth infections, impacted wisdom teeth and other bacterial infections can cause hearing loss. 

Should the cells die due to a lack of blood flow, this could lead to permanent damage to the hearing.

What Should You Expect When You First Wear A Hearing Aid?

If someone is referred to an audiologist to have their hearing tested to check for their suitability for a hearing aid, that person will often have a lot of questions and assumptions about what a hearing aid will mean for them.

Once the tests highlight the level of hearing loss and the type of hearing aid that might be suitable for an individual’s needs, there will be quite a few thoughts and considerations swirling around their mind, and they need to ask any questions and voice any queries they have.

As with any other appointment, knowing what to expect can help a person to get the most out of their initial consultation, tests, fitting appointment and the hearing aids themselves, so here are some first-time expectations.

 

The Process

After your hearing test and the related consultations to find out your particular needs and budget, you will have an additional fitting appointment, which can be as early as the same day or can take a couple of weeks if a custom mould or an open fitting is required.

During the hour-long fitting session, your audiologist will not only show you how to put in the hearing aid but also test and programme it so the settings are right for your needs.

They will tweak the pitch and the volume to make sure it is right for you, make adjustments for your preferences and teach you the basics to operate them.

This includes how to change the batteries, how to switch them on and off, volume control, programs and what they are used for, how to clean and maintain the hearing aids, as well as how to put them back into their case or charging station, if applicable.

 

The Adjustment Process

It can be hard to describe just how different hearing can be with and without a hearing aid, but these sudden and often substantial benefits can also take some getting used to.

The process of hearing takes place both in the ear canal and in the brain, and the louder and clearer noises can take a little bit of time for your brain to adjust to, especially if your brain has adapted to muffled, distorted or quieter sounds for a while.

In particular, you may start hearing background noises that you might not have heard for a while, such as the hum of electronics, the rustling of paper, footsteps or the ticks of mechanical devices such as clocks.

It is ultimately a gradual process and the more you retrain your brain, the better you will adjust. If you initially find them uncomfortable, start by gradually wearing them for a short time in quiet settings such as in the morning and at night, before wearing them for longer and in environments with more noise.

As well as this, if you have in-ear hearing aids, your air can feel blocked or muffled for a bit before your ear adjusts to the sensation.

Whilst there will be a follow-up appointment after two weeks, it can take up to three months to completely adjust, depending on how often you wear them.

What Happens If You Do Not Wear Hearing Aids?

After undertaking examinations and audiology tests to ensure that a hearing aid is the best way to manage a person’s hearing difficulties, there will naturally be a lot of questions that will emerge, much as there are when someone is given a glasses prescription.

One of the earliest questions asked by people after learning how to fit and use their hearing aids is how often they need to wear them and what happens if they don’t. 

There is a concern that much like how not wearing glasses can gradually make eyesight even weaker according to some long-term studies, not using a hearing aid might lead to hearing difficulties getting worse over time.

The answer to this is not entirely straightforward, and typically the benefits of wearing a hearing aid are so significant that there is little reason not to wear one as much as possible.

The absence of benefits aside, there is a debate surrounding the effects not wearing your hearing aid can cause, as even if the answer may technically be no, in practice it can do more damage than you might expect.

 

Auditory Deprivation

When it comes specifically to the sensitivity thresholds of your hearing of the type an audiogram would test, there is little difference whether you regularly wear a hearing aid or not. Your ability to hear will change over time at largely the same gradual rate.

This is where the complexities of the question arise, as whilst not wearing a hearing aid does not affect your hearing per se, it can affect your ability to process sound and lead to a process known as auditory deprivation.

The process of hearing is not only undertaken by the ears but by parts of your brain that translate the sound data the auditory nerve transmits into understandable speech, recognise sounds and process music, amongst the many other things the brain does with audio.

As with most other parts of the brain, it thrives through constant stimulation, and the more sounds that are heard, the more the auditory processing centre of the brain works.

However, if it is not being used, these parts of the brain will lose that sensitivity to audio, and according to some studies, potentially even switch focus from audio processing to video processing, meaning that the brain struggles to understand certain types of sounds.

This makes it hard to understand and recognise speech, as well as other cognitive consequences that have been associated with hearing loss, such as issues with balance, memory and a link to a greater risk of dementia later in life.

Hearing aids can help with this because they provide the brain with enough stimulation to keep these parts of the brain from functioning as they should be.

This is why, when someone starts to use a hearing aid that works for them, they not only notice that sounds are not as muffled or as quiet as they used to be, but that speech is clearer and it takes less energy to understand and keep hold of a conversation.

Rosen Case Shows How Long Covid Can Hamper Hearing

News that a new strain of Covid has become the latest dominant variety has gained very few headlines recently amid the big stories about postmasters, floods and Gaza. To most, the virus and the once deadly threat that caused normal life to be put on hold are a fading memory.

However, while for most people, a combination of vaccination and past infections have boosted immunity to the point where any variant of Covid is unlikely to cause more than a mild illness, for a few it can still be serious. At the same time, others are still feeling the effects of ‘long Covid’, often caught back in the early waves of 2020.

As time goes on, scientists are learning more and more about the effects of the virus and conditions like long Covid, including the potential it has to damage hearing.

Among those affected in this way is broadcaster and poet Michael Rosen. As the Daily Express reported, Mr Rosen caught the disease in 2020 and was hospitalised, sharing a ward with Derek Draper, who recently died from complications of the disease.

Like Derek Draper, Mr Rosen was given a 50-50 chance of surviving but pulled through. However, the wider consequences included damage to both his eyesight and hearing. He also had to learn to walk again.

In an update shared with the paper, Mr Rosen, aged 77, said he is now “mostly fine”, but his left ear has severely impaired hearing.

This experience shows why it makes sense to book a free hearing test if you have had Covid. This is especially true if you have had any lasting symptoms, as it clearly can cause damage to the ears.

Extensive research into the long-term effects of the virus has indicated that hearing damage and also tinnitus can occur. Last year, a Manchester University analysis of the data gathered to date found that between seven and 15 per cent of adults reported audio-vestibular problems (defined as tinnitus, hearing impairment, or vertigo) after a bout of Covid.

The research noted that much is not yet known about why Covid leads to such problems, particularly tinnitus, which it suggests may be down to the stress and emotional impact of the virus rather than the infection itself.

It is known that hearing loss can be caused by viruses, but the high number of Covid infections makes it hard to establish how many instances are directly caused by it, as opposed to other causes like different viruses.

While these gaps in knowledge show how much more there is to learn about causation, there is enough evidence to suggest that anyone who has had Covid would do well to have their hearing tested afterward, even if their symptoms have been relatively mild.

While the big hope is the virus that brought the worst pandemic in a century will gradually morph into little more than the kind of cold other coronaviruses cause, for now, it is still far from benign for many people. That is why you should still be cautious and aware of the wide array of potential longer-term consequences.