About hearing loss

When a hearing loss develops, sometimes it is so gradual we don't realise it's happening. Sounds get softer. Voices seem muffled. It becomes harder to hear conversation in noisy environments. There is the feeling that something isn't quite right with your hearing.

Your gradual hearing loss may even be more obvious to your family and friends than to you. They may comment on how loud you need the TV or radio, or that when they talk to you, you don't hear them. Does this sound familiar?

What happens when I have a hearing loss?

When the first difficulties arise with hearing or understanding speech, we often try to compensate by:

  • Following people's lip movements and facial expressions to understand what they are saying
  • Filling in gaps that aren't heard in conversations by guessing what they might have said 
  • Nodding and smiling as if everything is being understood even though it isn't
  • Avoiding social situations where we know we will struggle to hear

But all this can be very tiring and stressful as it demands good concentration and constant attention. So the first step forward is acknowledging that you may have a hearing loss and being open to doing something about it.

What causes hearing loss?

The ear is a wonderful, complex organ with three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Hearing loss can result from damage to any of these three parts, but the most common form of hearing loss is caused by problems in the inner ear.

Causes of inner ear hearing loss include: hereditary factors, the natural aging process, excessive exposure to noise over time, some types of medication and head injuries.

Hearing loss in the inner ear tends to initially affect high-pitched sounds such as "s", "f", "sh" and "t" play a key role in our ability to understand speech clearly, especially when there is background noise. This is why a person with this type of hearing loss will often say, "I can hear but I don't understand what's being said."

What do I do if I have a hearing loss?

Firstly, if you think you may have a hearing loss, talk to your doctor, or an audiologist at your local hearing clinic (click here to ‘find an expert button’). Hearing care professionals such as an audiologist are trained and qualified to help you make a decision about your hearing.

Hearing clinics provide comprehensive hearing testing and expertise in fitting hearing communications solutions. There are many causes of hearing loss, and in some cases hearing loss can be treated without the need for hearing aids.

Also, think about what types of situations you would like improved hearing in and where you have difficulty, so you can let the hearing care professional know at your appointment.

Different levels of hearing loss

After a hearing examination, hearing tests and discussion, your hearing care professional will be able to tell you more about your hearing, your hearing loss and possible steps forward. There are many degrees of hearing loss: your hearing care professional may use one of the following terms to describe the degree of hearing loss that you have.

  • Mild hearing loss: unable to hear soft sounds and difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. 
  • Moderate hearing loss: unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds, considerable difficulty in understanding speech, particularly with background noise.
  • Severe hearing loss: unable to hear most sounds. Speakers must raise their voice to be heard. Group conversation is possible only with considerable effort.
  • Profound hearing loss: some very loud sounds are audible but communication without a hearing aid or through sign language is very difficult.

For more information about hearing click here and for hearing solutions click here.
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For any enquires please contact email nzinfo@phonak.com


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