It is probably best to get a referral from your GP and see the ENT Specialist first as they will be able to schedule the appropriate audiological testing as well as undertake any other investigations that may be required. There may be some medical issue that can be resolved and longer term hearing management may not be required. If further hearing assistance is needed, you can see an audiologist and pursue this following the medical advice. There are a number of conditions that can cause a hearing loss in one ear to build up gradually including simple things such as ear wax and middle ear fluid - these can usually be medically- treated fairly quickly. In the case of wax build-up, as soon as it is removed the hearing usually returns to normal. Other conditions may take longer to treat or may not require medical intervention. The ENT specialist will be best placed to advise you on your individual case. 

Firstly if the wax is not blocking the ear canal or causing discomfort or irritation, leave it alone. We are all supposed to have a certain amount of earwax to protect our ear system and the ear canal is self cleaning with wax normally working its own way out of the ear canal. Neither cleaning with cotton buds or using self-use electronic vacuums is a good option. Cotton buds inserted into the ear canal tend to push the wax in further and are only safe to use in the most external part of the ear canal. After talking to various Ear, Nose and Throat specialists and GPs, there was concern that the 'vacuums' could inadvertently be pushed in too far and cause damage to the delicate ear drum which consists of only 3 layers of skin. There was also a query on how effective they would be given that a person using the device cannot determine if the device is sitting on the wax. In general, these ear vacuums are too weak to be effective and if they were more powerful they could potentially cause significant damage in untrained hands. If the ear canal is scraped or if wax is firmly attached to the skin of the canal, removing it can lead to bleeding and potential outer ear infections (otitis externa). This can occur in particular in older individuals whose skin is usually more fragile. A self cleaning method that is often advocated is to get a tissue and twist it into a spear shape. After having a shower, the wax in the ear canals is often softer and the tissue spear can be used to mop up any softer wax. If the wax is still present or hardened you could try using drops such as Ear Clear or seeing your GP or ENT specialist. Many audiologists also have the training and expertise to remove wax using dry methods that involve picking out the wax while visualising the ear canal through a magnified headlight.

Options are available depending on your budget and needs. Custom-made earplugs can be produced in a flesh colour; you would need to go to your local hearing clinic for these. They fit well in the ears because they are made to match the exact shape of your own anatomy and are usually more comfortable and seal better than generic plugs. They also tend to last longer.Alternatively and more cheaply, you could purchase some off-the-shelf plugs in flesh colour or clear colour from many chemists or hearing clinics and the cost will vary from around $5- $30. The shop-bought items should have some information on the packaging regarding the level of attenuation (dampening) that you will receive from the plugs. Some are disposable after one usage and other silicon-based plugs will last much longer. The important thing for the power tools and mowing is to reduce the sound pressure to a level that is not dangerous to your hearing and the fit of the earplugs really matters for this. If air is escaping around the earplug, then sound will also be leaking in around the plugs to the eardrum. Some people prefer to use earmuffs for noisy situations as it is easier to make sure they are really covering the ears, but they are, of course, more obvious when you are wearing them. Earmuffs can be purchased at hardware and specialty shops.

Progressive, irreversible hearing loss can result from radiation therapy and platinum-based chemotherapy drugs such as carboplatin and cisplatin. The drugs damage the hair cells of the inner ear, making the ear less responsive to sound waves. A 2010 study by German scientists showed that hearing loss is worst among patients who were younger when they were diagnosed, probably because they have taken in higher doses of platinum drugs over their lives. Children and adolescents receiving platinum-based chemotherapy should have regular audiometric follow-up exams, especially for frequencies above 2 kHz, even long after treatment has wrapped up, the researchers said. Cochlear implants are one way to remedy hearing loss that becomes serious. 


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