As with the eye, the ear’s performance is affected by ageing. However, bad vision gradually makes reading harder as the letters get smaller as in the chart below but hearing loss is different. In hearing impairment some sounds in a word may be heard clearly but other sounds particularly consonants may not, causing overall speech to sound ‘muffled’ or unclear.   Hearing loss can make certain syllables and sounds harder to hear. For example, high-pitched consonants like f, s, th, c, st and t are easily drowned out by louder, low-pitched vowels like a, o and u. This results in a person with hearing loss complaining that they can hear others are talking, but not what they are saying. They can hear but do not always understand particularly in noise. Listening with an untreated hearing loss can be compared to Swiss cheese; there are ‘holes’ in the conversation.



Hearing loss usually begins unnoticed. On average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it. Too few people make a timely decision to take active steps to recover their hearing and increase their quality of life.

Studies show that as people lose their hearing, they are more prone to depression; they withdraw socially and communicate less with family and friends. This comes as no surprise – after all, you can’t participate in conversation if you can’t hear or understand what’s being said!