What is auditory processing disorder (APD)?
APD is a term used to describe a number of hearing disorders caused by problems with how the brain processes the information it receives from the ear. People with APD have normal hearing when tested using standard tests, but experience problems with understanding and making sense of sounds, especially complicated and fast-changing sounds like speech.
APD is usually present from a young age, and there is some evidence to link it with other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But as the brain ages, its ability to process sounds diminishes and auditory processing difficulties can also be experienced by older people whose hearing may appear to be normal.
What is hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is an increased sensitivity to sounds that are not normally considered to be uncomfortably loud. People who have hyperacusis are very sensitive to sounds above a certain volume, and often find everyday sounds, such as running water or the rustling of a newspaper, troubling and sometimes painful. Many people with hyperacusis also experience a feeling of fullness in their ear(s).
Hyperacusis can develop over time, or come on suddenly. It can affect one or both ears. While it can be a nuisance to some people, it's very distressing for others and can have a big impact on their life.
If you think you have hyperacusis, see your GP, who may refer you to a specialised audiologist (hearing specialist) or the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department of your local hospital where you will receive advice on managing your condition, usually through sound therapy and counselling.
For more information about hyperacusis, its causes, treatments, and where you can find support, see our leaflet hyperacusis.
Hearing loss from trauma can be temporary or permanent, depending on the extent of the damage to your ear. Types of trauma that can affect your hearing include:
- Head injuries that can directly affect the inner ear, or the structures within it, and cause hearing loss.
- Loud blasts that can cause damage to the middle and inner ear.
- Sudden large changes in air pressure (although this is quite rare).
- Ear surgery also carries risks for your hearing so you should discuss this with your doctor before the operation.
Hearing loss and other health conditions
New evidence highlights that hearing loss increases the risk or impact of various other long-term conditions. At the same time, because many health conditions are associated with ageing, they are likely to occur alongside hearing loss.
Research shows that hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression and increases the risk of anxiety and other mental health issues - although hearing aids reduce these risks.
There's also increasing evidence to show a strong link between hearing loss and dementia. With mild hearing loss, the risk of developing dementia doubles, with moderate hearing loss the risk is three times as much, while with severe hearing loss the risk is five times.
Research has shown a link between any type of diabetes and hearing loss. There's also evidence that hearing loss is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke and obesity.
Where can I get more information and support?
For more information about conditions that can affect your hearing, see our section on ear problems. You can also read our leaflets and factsheets, or contact our information line to find out about services and support in your area.