Hearing and ear care
Discover more about some of the common types of hearing problems and deafness. Find out about having a hearing test and communicating if you are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.
If you have hearing loss, your hearing will have been affected by a disease, disorder or injury.
If you are having hearing loss problems you may need a hearing aid. If this is the case, you should speak with your doctor, even if you are thinking of buying a hearing aid privately.
Earwax and ear infections
You might find, even if you experience sudden deafness, that you only have a build-up of wax in your ear or an infection.
Both of these can be treated by your doctor.
Tinnitus is the medical term for any noise that people hear in one ear, both ears or in their head.
Some people sometimes complain of hearing a ringing sound or even buzzing, humming or whistling.
It is not a disease nor is it life-threatening.
It is quite common and can occur at any age with one third of all adults reporting some tinnitus.
Levels of deafness or hearing loss can range from mild deafness, where people may find it hard to follow speech in noisy situations, to profound deafness, where people often use sign language as their preferred means of communication.
You can be born with a level of deafness or it can develop in adulthood. Ninety per cent of profoundly deaf children are born to hearing parents.
Loud noise, for example loud music, is the most common cause of deafness that isn't congenital (from birth).
Communicating with people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus
There are a range of ways in which people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus communicate, including:
- hearing aids and induction loop systems to improve sound
- lip reading skills
- through sign language
British and Irish Sign Languages are both commonly used in Northern Ireland, and are recognised as languages by the Government.
Having a hearing test
If you haven't had your hearing tested before and you are finding it hard to hear conversations in noisy environments, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
You may be referred for a hearing test either at your local audiology department or ear, nose and throat (ENT) clinic
Your doctor (or health visitor for babies) will refer you either direct to the audiology department or to a consultant who will then refer you to an audiologist.
An audiologist may advise you to use a hearing aid and will arrange for one to be supplied, if you feel it would be helpful.
Where to get information and advice
There are a range of charities and organisations that offer advice, information and services if you’re deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.
Below is a list of some of those charities and organisations.
- Northern Ireland Deaf Youth Association
- RNID in Northern Ireland
- Signature Northern Ireland
- Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
- National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)
- British Deaf Association