Sorry, can you repeat that?

10 August 2019

Are your friends and family complaining of having to repeat themselves, or that you have the TV turned up too loud? A loss or reduction of hearing can be caused by a number of different reasons. Shahnaz Fraser of Spire Norwich Hospital looks into the causes of hearing loss and the problems associated with it, with Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Mr John Phillips.

Mr Phillips holds private clinics at here at Spire Norwich Hospital and gives me some insight into some of the reasons behind hearing loss.

Ear wax  

“A build-up of wax can be painful, as well as affecting your hearing. Never try to remove wax yourself with a cotton bud, or anything else, as this can push the wax further into the ear and cause damage. If you suspect you have a build-up of wax, olive oil will soften the wax, so it comes away more easily. If necessary, wax can be easily removed using microsuction. This is a technique whereby a small 'vacuum cleaner' is used to hoover up the wax”.

Glue ear  

“Glue ear is a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which mostly affects young children, although adults can suffer with it too. You mostly notice a reduction in hearing, but it can also be uncomfortable and be associated with an echoing feeling when you talk. It may be necessary to perform a small procedure to drain the fluid and insert small tubes called grommets into the ear. Glue ear can also be linked to problems with swollen adenoids (the tissues at the back of the nose), which are sometimes removed at the same time as the grommets are inserted. Your GP will be able to see if glue ear is present and will refer you for further investigation and audiology tests if necessary”.


It is estimated that around 6 million people in the UK suffer with tinnitus* – an ongoing sound in one or both ears. It is often a consequence of hearing loss and can disrupt concentration and sleep. Often it is just plain annoying. “Tinnitus is usually caused by hearing loss, so investigation of the cause of the hearing loss and then treatment of the hearing loss is a sensible initial step. There are many other causes of tinnitus that can be due to other abnormalities in the head and neck. It is important to understand that tinnitus is common and that nowadays much can be done to improve people's quality of life.  This is very much dependent on the cause of the tinnitus and what aspects of their tinnitus cause particular upset."

Blocked ears 

“Blocked ears can be caused by a malfunction of the eustachian tubes, which connect the back of the nose to the middle ear. Blocked ears can be painful and can sometimes cause popping sounds from within the ear or tinnitus. GPs can prescribe treatments that help solve the problem for the majority of cases. In resistant cases, it is important to confirm the cause of blocked ears and to arrange any further specific tests".


“No, not just the feeling you get standing on top of a high mountain! Vertigo is the sensation that you, or the environment around you is spinning. It can be associated with hearing problems and the other symptoms mentioned above. It can come on suddenly, and is very upsetting to experience, as well as causing nausea and affecting daily life. It’s a symptom, rather than a cause and the possible causes may be unrelated to the ears. Your GP can look into the cause of your vertigo and if necessary, arrange some specialist scans, such as a CT or MRI. Complex cases often require referral to a consultant specialist in the appropriate field.

Frequent dizziness that involves a spinning or movement sensation often comes from problems within the inner ear. One of the most common causes of vertigo from the ear is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV can be treated by using a specific sequence of head movements that reposition loose material within the inner ear chambers. This can be administered by your GP or an ENT consultant”

Mr Phillips concludes “ear problems are common, but fortunately, once the cause has been found, there are a wealth of treatments to resolve the situation".

If you are suffering from hearing loss or any of these ear-related issues, see your family GP in the first instance. For further information on Mr John Phillips visit his profile page or call 01603 255 614 to make an appointment.

All surgery carries an element of risk and the content of this page is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of a doctor or other healthcare professional.


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