How to look after your hearing

 Hearing can become impaired with advanced age.  Here you will find information on the signs and causes of hearing loss and how you can cope with it.

Your ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Sounds go through the outer ear, pass through the middle ear and are processed by the inner ear before being sent to the brain. 

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, it is because part of this system is not working properly.

Signs of hearing loss

  • Turning up the volume on the TV or radio so loudly it disturbs others
  • Having to ask people to repeat what they say, or to speak more loudly
  • Being unable to hear conversations properly when in social situations
  • Not hearing the doorbell or telephone
  • Finding it hard to hear people when speaking on the telephone.

Causes of hearing loss
Ear wax in the outer ear can cause blockages which may affect your hearing. This wax is made by the ear in order to clean itself and usually does not cause a problem, although you may occasionally need to visit a doctor to have it removed.

You should never attempt to remove wax from your ear by inserting cotton buds or fingers into your ear as this may cause pain, infection or deafness. Hearing loss usually develops gradually and painlessly and can be due to a variety of causes, including:

  • Exposure to loud or constant noise
  • Inherited medical conditions
  • The ageing process
  • Illness.

Coping with hearing loss
Hearing losses can range from mild to total deafness, so it is important to contact your doctor if you have any worries about your hearing. 

The doctor will investigate the cause of the problem and if necessary refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist or an Audiologist to have your hearing tested atyour local Health Centre, Local Health Office or public hospital hearing aid clinic.

Hearing tests are painless and safe, involving a test of your ability to hear tones at different volumes. The test results will be used to diagnose and treat your hearing.

Hearing aids
Following your hearing test, it may be recommended that you use a hearing aid.  This device helps make sounds clearer and is useful if you still have some hearing, as it may enhance your ability to hear sounds around you. However, it won’t replace hearing that has been lost.

Cost of hearing aids
If you are a Medical Card holder, you are entitled to a free hearing aid,  click here for more information on Medical Cards.

If you do not have a medical card, your hearing aid clinic will put you in touch with suppliers of hearing aids and you will have to pay for your hearing aid yourself.  However, you may get funding for your hearing aid under the Treatment Benefit Scheme, which is run by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Types of hearing aids
There are many different types of hearing aids.  Some are worn behind the ear, others fit inside it.  If a hearing aid has been recommended to you, enquire about the different types available and choose the one most suitable for you. 

 If you don’t require a hearing aid, there are other devices that may help you to cope better with your hearing loss.  Amplifiers can be attached to telephones to increase the volume and there are special telephones and doorbells available to buy which flash to indicate they are ringing.

Contact the local audiology service through your Local Health Office for further information on hearing aids and support services.

HSE National Information Line
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850

Citizen’s Information Centres
LoCall: 1890 777 121
Free and confidential service