Deafness - getting it treated (?)


Book Reviewer
Dear Clever Medic-type people - I am after some advice.

After years in the Regular Army, and even longer in the TA, I am now suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus. I got it looked at/checked around twenty-five years ago, when I was told that it was 15% noise-induced hearing loss, given around £2,500, and told to bugger off. Since then, and since further TA service, including mobilisation, Iraq, Herrick, etc, it's now worse, and after nagging from the Missus (who has a pretty deep voice, and can therefore be heard) and from my daughter (who I can't understand at all) I have decided it's probably worth getting it looked at properly, and maybe get some sort of hearing aid.

Firstly, will a hearing aid help me? It's not the tinnitus - I'm used to that - but the not being able to distinguish words that is annoying. How should I go about this? Do I go to my GP, say I'm deaf, and join a queue for a NHS eartrumpet? Is there any better way that this? And, if as I believe my hearing has deteriorated considerably since I got my dosh back in the '80s (very useful though it was then!) can I wheedle any more out of the Government? Is it worth my while going private, and getting a possibly better machine (one without batteries the size of housebricks)?

Over to the assembled Medical wisdom of you professional johnnies.....
My dad was ground radio and suffered hearing loss due to listening to high frequencies for years, he eventually gave in to nagging and now sports 2 very natty digital hearing aids! They were supplied via the NHS so its well worth going to your GP and getting referred to your local hearing specialist. He still suffers from slightly selective deafness mind you....he can't hear the phrases 'can i have your wallet' and 'the lawn could do with mowing'! 'It's your round' seems to pass him by too!!
Your GP will refer you to an ENT clinic at the local hospital. Depending on area you can wait anything from 3 weeks (Royal South Hants Hospital Southampton) through 6 months (Guys, London) to 18 months (Newport, Gwent) You will then receive a detailed hearing test - they sit you in a box room with a tally-counter style button while they fire beeps in different frequencies at you. They may also - depending on hospital - give you a kind of EEG style check where they wire you up to machinery to see if the messages are are actually travelling from the ear to the brain. Once all the info is collated they then decide if you are suitable for a hearing aid. If so, you usually stay with the same department in the same hospital while they sort out a tailor made widget to fit your ear, give you a hearing aid and a handful of batteries and leave you to get on with it. It can take up to 6 months for your brain to interpret the new volume/hearing pitch so stick with it!
You can also request a tinnitus masker - which looks like a hearing aid but actually emits a noise identical to your tinnitus, in effect, giving you a double negative so your brain should block it out. That's the theory anyway, but if your tinnitus changes pitch you're not suitable for a masker.
If you don't want to wait for an NHS appointment, Specsavers now do their own hearing tests and supply hearing aids, ranging from £500 to about £3,000 in price. You have to buy their batteries, though - the NHS batteries are free.


Book Reviewer
Drop-in a.m. only at the QA hospital Portsmouth, if that helps, but referral by GP may be better. Be prepared for the odd repeat visit as the aid may need tuning in the light of your practical experience of it.

The loss of higher frequencies, and of the sibilants at the end of words (t, d, s etc) is an established indicator of hearing-related loss. Screwing more money out of the MoD OUGHT to be possible but don't expect it to be easy. Ask RBL about this. It will need a very carefuly written case. If you do get an offer, APPEAL it (details of how to do this will accompany the offer).


Book Reviewer
I thought I would explain my understanding of tinnitus (based on experience). In the inner ear are cilia (like tiny hairs). Soundwaves received by the eardrum vibrate these and they in turn generate an electrical signal to the brain which you interpret as 'sound'. With noise-induced deafness these cilia become brittle and break off, so, ultimately, starting at the higher frequencies, although there is a real sound outside, your brain isn't hearing it. However it wishes it did and tries ever so hard to find electrical signals it can tell you about. As a result it rounds up all the electrical noise it can find (and there is a lot going on in your brain that you don't usually know about) and sends this in as 'sound', in effect saying here you are, this is what is going on. Unfortunately all you are getting is the sussurating rubbish which is known as tinnitus.

When you have a decent hearing aid, real sound starts coming in again and you are getting a better signal/noise ratio and after a while the tinnitus may GO AWAY because you have retrained your brain not to listen to it. That, I believe, is one reason why it is so important to persevere with a hearing aid and wear it throughout waking hours so as to wean your brain off fishing for rubbish to 'listen' to.

I am of course open to correction, this is just what I have worked out for myself.

BTW flip the battery case open at night to reduce thenumber of trips you have to make for battery replacement.

P.S. Perhaps the Masters of the ARRSE Universe could make this a Sticky as deafness is a raher widespread problem in the ex-service community.

P.P.S. That voice asking if you were going to sit in that armchair all day was real, after all.
Being profoundly deaf (hereditary) I was offered a Cochlea implant not long ago and turned it down as there was not a decent chance of it working. I have been wearing 2 hearing aids for 12 years and digital ones for the last 4 years, digital are a far better improvement over the analogue ones but it is still not a replacement for your natural hearing, plus walking around with 2 lumps of plastic in your ears for 14-18 hours a day isn't that much fun.

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