Summary

  • Hearing loss can be caused by physical problems, or by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.
  • Up to 22 per cent of adult Australians have a significant hearing loss.
  • A person with hearing loss may lose confidence because they have difficulty communicating.
Recent research in South Australia indicates that up to 22 per cent of adults have a significant level of hearing loss. Many people with hearing loss experience a drop in self-esteem and confidence because of their impaired ability to communicate with other people.

Hearing loss refers to reduced hearing, which can be caused by a variety of factors. It is different from deafness, which is present from birth and may be caused by genetic factors or rubella infection during pregnancy.

Hearing loss can affect personal and work life


Hearing loss can affect a person in three main ways:
  • Fewer educational and job opportunities due to impaired communication
  • Social withdrawal due to reduced access to services and difficulties communicating with others
  • Emotional problems caused by a drop in self-esteem and confidence.

There are two main types of hearing loss


'Conductive' hearing loss is caused by obstructions or malfunctions in the outer or middle ear. It can be caused by:
  • Middle ear infections and malfunctions
  • A damaged ear drum
  • Impacted ear wax.
'Sensorineural' hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. It can be caused by:
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Diseases such as meningitis
  • Ageing.

Other disorders of the ear


Other disorders of the ear include:
  • Tinnitus – noises or ringing in the ears or head
  • Meniere’s disease – symptoms may include vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus, hearing loss and nausea
  • Acoustic neuroma – tumours on the acoustic nerve.

Tips on speaking to a person with hearing loss


The following tips might be helpful next time you talk with a hearing impaired person:
  • Get the person’s attention.
  • Face the person and stand close to them.
  • Have the light on your face and don’t cover your mouth.
  • Speak more slowly than usual.
  • Raise your voice if you have to, but try not to shout.
  • Speak expressively and use face, hand and body movements.
  • Be ready to use a pen and paper.

Where to get help

Things to remember

  • Hearing loss can be caused by physical problems, or by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.
  • Up to 22 per cent of adult Australians have a significant hearing loss.
  • A person with hearing loss may lose confidence because they have difficulty communicating.

More information

Ear nose and throat

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Last updated: September 2012

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