Experiment highlighted hearing loss problems

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Currently there are around 10 million people in the UK with a form of hearing loss and experts predict that number will rise over the next few years.

I volunteered to go along to the new hearcare hub at Specsavers in Burnley and have hearing aid putty put into my ears to help me understand more about hearing problems.

Specsavers Khalil Rifai, hearing aid audiologist.

Specsavers Khalil Rifai, hearing aid audiologist.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I can’t ever remember having a hearing test and to be honest, although I get my eyes tested regularly, it isn’t something I’ve given much thought to.

First of all audiologist Khalil Rifai examined my ears and, apart from a small amount of wax, he said my eardrums looked healthy.

I then had to sit in a booth and wear headphones while Khalil played a series of sounds. When I heard a sound I had to press a button on a remote control-type device. The results of the hearing test found my hearing to be in the normal range. But now for the difficult part.

Khalil filled both my ears with the putty used to take impressions for hearing aids. It sets after about 10 minutes. While I could still hear what was happening around me, I kind of felt like I was under water and I really had to listen hard to hear what people were saying, especially if they were facing away from me.

Khalil repeated the hearing test and this time, as expected, I scored much lower.

Next I had to put my hearing to the test in a real-life situation. Walking around the town centre I was conscious of how much more I had to concentrate. I was unable to pick up snippets of conversation and I was much more aware of the vibrations from my footsteps on the ground.

It has to be said I did feel like I was constantly looking around so I didn’t miss anything. When I went into the post office to buy some stamps I had to ask the cashier to repeat the price. I could get the gist of what she was saying but when it came to the finer details I was struggling.

In fact I was glad to get back to the shop and have the putty taken out of my ears.

Khalil Rifai, audiologist at Specsavers in Burnley, said more and more people are suffering from hearing loss.

“Busy places are always the worst for people. We’ve got a more active lifestyle, listening to loud music when we’re out jogging or on the train. But once there’s damage to the hair cells it’s irreversible.

“At the moment we mainly get people with hearing problems in their late 50s, 60s and 70s but in the future I think there will be more younger people having hearing tests.

“People either talk quieter with hearing loss or start talking louder.

“One to one people with mild to moderate hearing loss will be fine and sometimes it can take people up to 10 years before they do anything about it.

“It tends to happen gradually, often it’s noticed by a family member and the person with hearing loss will say there’s nothing wrong with them.

“Someone with mild to moderate hearing loss will often hear part of the word but not all of it, they tend to miss out on the softer consonants and they’ll say that people are mumbling.”