Hearing conditions: evidence, experience and resources

On this page, we share trustworthy evidence and resources about hearing conditions and highlight opportunities to take part in research. Our blogs help to set evidence in context and make it easy to understand, and often include reflections from people living with hearing conditions and from health professionals and researchers. 

You can either scroll through this page or click on any of the links below to jump to the relevant section:


Chronic suppurative otitis media

Chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM), also known as chronic otitis media, is an inflammation and infection of the middle ear that lasts for two weeks or more. This blog, aimed at people affected by CSOM, looks at the potential benefits and harms of several treatment options: Chronic suppurative otitis media (infection and inflammation of the middle ear): Cochrane evidence on treatment options (March 2021).

1. Seven new Cochrane Reviews have explored the potential benefits and harms of a variety of treatment options for chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM), inflammation and infection of the middle ear that lasts for two weeks or more 2. The evidence is limited, leaving many unanswered questions about which treatments work best and how different types, combinations and frequencies of treatments compare, as well as their potential harms 3. Different treatment options are available to individuals with CSOM, and individuals are encouraged to discuss these options with their healthcare provider – including potential unwanted effects


Dementia and hearing conditions

The blog Dementia and hearing conditions: what do we most need to know? (March 2023) introduces a new project which aims to find out what are the top questions that need answering about dementia and hearing conditions, in the first Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) to look at two health areas together. Sarah Chapman looks at what this is about, and hears from some of those involved in the PSP about what it hopes to achieve and why it’s important.

Take-home points Many people are living with both dementia and hearing conditions and the combination can create additional difficulties. Hearing impairment is one of the main modifiable risk factors for developing dementia A James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership (JLA PSP) has been launched which will look at the combined impact of dementia and hearing conditions The PSP will have input from people living with these conditions and those involved in their care, to identify the most important unanswered questions, establishing priorities for future research There will be opportunities for members of the public to share their views through surveys and a workshop. You can follow the project at https://www.jla.nihr.ac.uk/priority-setting-partnerships/coexisting-dementia-and-hearing-conditions/ and on Twitter @DementiaHearPSP

Opportunities to take part in this research

Over the coming months, members of the public will be invited to respond to surveys and to attend a workshop. We will update this page, and the blog, with the details.


Ear drops to remove earwax

In this short blog, Ear drops to remove earwax: a quick look (March 2023) Professor Martin Burton looks at the evidence on ear drops for removing earwax, and some things to think about, including whether you need to remove it at all. Professor Burton is an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and an author of the Cochrane Review on ear drops to remove earwax.

Take-home points: • Earwax is normal and usually is not a problem. You may want to get the wax out if itis filling the ear canal and causing symptoms such as deafness or discomfort, or preventing a health professional from seeing the ear drum if they need to. • There is Cochrane evidence that using ear drops when you have a partially or completely blocked ear canal may help to remove the wax. But it is not clear whether one type of drop is any better than another. • Not many people taking part in the research studies had unwanted effects from ear drops. Trying to remove earwax by putting objects into your ears can push wax deeper and damage your ear drum. Ear candles can cause serious injury (and there is no evidence that they are helpful).



In Water precautions for children with grommets: is it worth the bother? (February 2016) Professor Martin Burton looks at the evidence on water protection for children with grommets and says it’s time for a fresh look at the advice given to parents.


Hearing loss

Hearing aids

In the blog Hearing aids: evidence, equity and rationing (December 2017) Sarah Chapman looks at the evidence on hearing aids for adults with acquired hearing loss.

In the blog Learning to love our hearing aids: the good, the bad, the ugly and the evidence (July 2014, updated August 2016) Sarah Chapman looks at the Cochrane evidence on interventions to improve hearing aid use, and reflects on her own and others’ experiences to consider some of the reasons why people given hearing aids don’t necessarily wear them, and what support is available.

Priorities for research about hearing loss

The blog Hearing loss: priority setting in research (July 2015) is about about a James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership on mild-moderate hearing loss, with reflections from a number of people who were involved. The top priorities identified by that work are explained in the blog Top 10 priorities for research in mild-moderate hearing loss (September 2015).

On this page, you can find details of funded research for priority questions on mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

Opportunities to take part in research on hearing loss

A new tool to help people manage hearing loss

Researchers at Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre want your feedback to help shape a new tool designed to help people manage their hearing loss. You can get involved by:

  • sharing your experiences
  • trying out the tool

To get involved, please contact Dr Helen Henshaw by email: helen.henshaw@nottingham.ac.uk or on Twitter @hlh1

A trial comparing hearing aids with cochlear implants

In a blog for adults with hearing loss, Severe hearing loss in adults: finding out whether cochlear implants or hearing aids are better (June 2021) Dr Adele Horobin, Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Manager at the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre discusses COACH, a new clinical trial aiming to find out if hearing aids or a cochlear implant is better for adults with severe hearing loss.

In the UK, the NHS may offer a cochlear implant to adults who have severe hearing loss and can only hear sounds louder than 80 decibels (about as loud as an alarm clock or kitchen blender) We don’t know whether hearing aids or cochlear implants are better for adults who have slightly more hearing than the 80 decibel threshold. A new randomised clinical trial, COACH, will compare hearing aids with a cochlear implant for people in this category The results of the trial should help patients, healthcare providers and practitioners decide between a cochlear implant and hearing aids

The COACH trial is now recruiting people to take part. Could this be you? Find out more on the COACH Trial website and in this blog Cochlear implant or hearing aids? A clinical trial needs you.

Find clinical trials for hearing loss prevention

Find clinical trials to restore hearing in people with hearing loss

Information and resources on hearing loss



In the blog Hyperacusis: what do we most need to know? (December 2017, updated March 2023) members of the JLA Priority Setting Partnership on hyperacusis explain how they worked to ensure research into this hearing problem is directed by those affected by it.

Opportunities to take part in research on hyperacusis

Dr Kathryn Fackrell from the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre is leading a new research project. She explains:

The Development and evaluation of internet Self-Help, Understanding, and Support for Hyperacusis (iSHUSH) project aims to develop and evaluate a high-quality digital educational website that will be designed to provide improved access to information and education on hyperacusis, support, and tools/strategies to self-manage hyperacusis, all aimed towards improvements in hyperacusis-related problems. The project involves a number of steps and studies that will involve adults with lived experience of hyperacusis and healthcare professionals inputting their experiences and challenges of living with hyperacusis and caring for those who do and their views and opinions of the website content and questionnaires that are used for hyperacusis.  We are currently aiming to start our next studies at the end of April 2023.

This study will be open for recruitment at the end of April 2023. We will also be looking for adults with hyperacusis to take part an interview and tell us their views and opinions of the content for the iSHUSH website (starting May 2023).”

We will update this page with links to the project website when available and calls to take part.


Menière’s disease

In the blog Menière’s disease: experience, evidence gaps & treatment choices (March 2023) Sarah Chapman looks at the latest evidence on treatments and talks to her husband Tim about living with Menière’s and making choices about treatments. She also talks to researcher Katie Webster and Ear, Nose and Throat doctor Martin Burton. Katie and Martin are both authors of new Cochrane Reviews on treatments for Menière’s.

Take-home points: Menière's disease is a long-term condition affecting the inner ear. It is characterised by episodes of vertigo accompanied by tinnitus and hearing loss. Treatments aim to control symptoms and prevent deterioration of hearing and balance. Cochrane evidence on drug treatments (taken by mouth and put into the ear), positive pressure therapy, lifestyle and dietary changes, and surgery all highlight uncertainty about the benefits and harms of these treatments for people with Menière's. When making choices about treatments for Menière's, it’s important to know that evidence about the beneficial effects of treatment is lacking, and to base those choices on other factors, including personal preferences and priorities and the possible harms of treatment (although these too may be uncertain). Tim shares his experiences of living with Menière's, including his reasons for trying the treatment offered despite the lack of evidence.


Single-sided deafness

In the blog Single-sided deafness: working together to improve research into treatments (March 2022) Roulla Katiri, chief audiologist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, and Lewis Williams, who developed single-sided deafness in 2018, explain how patients and other experts have worked together to identify the most important things to measure in research studies about treatments for single-sided deafness. 

Research studies testing treatments measure various effects (known as ‘outcomes’). Studies of treatments for unilateral hearing loss, also known as single-sided deadness (SSD), have used 520 different outcomes. This makes it difficult to compare results across studies and work out which SSD treatment works best and for whom. We can make it easier to compare results across studies by asking researchers to measure the same outcomes. These outcomes form the core outcome set. They are the very minimum that must be measured when testing treatments for a condition. The Core Rehabilitation Outcome Set for Single-Sided Deafness (CROSSSD) initiative worked closely with international experts in SSD (healthcare users and professionals) to develop a core outcome set. Adoption of the three outcomes (spatial orientation, group conversations in noisy social situations, and impact on social situations) in the core outcome set will improve the future of research into SSD treatments.

Opportunities to take part in research on single-sided deafness

Further research is currently underway to determine ‘how’ these core outcomes can best be measured. If you would like to take part in future hearing research, please register your interest by signing up to the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre participant database. You can also email sandra.smith@nottingham.ac.uk for more information. 



Cochrane evidence on tinnitus

Between 2016 and 2022, Cochrane Reviews have been published on the following interventions for tinnitus:

Disappointingly, they largely reveal a lack of reliable evidence to inform decisions about these treatments.

Addressing research priorities in tinnitus

The tinnitus top 10 priorities for research were agreed upon in 2012 through the work of the NIHR James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships. Details of funded research following this can be found here.

Information and resources on tinnitus 


References (pdf)

Join in the conversation with @SarahChapman30 @CochraneUK or leave a comment on the blog.

Please note, we cannot give specific medical advice. We do not publish comments that link to individual pages requesting donations or to commercial sites, or appear to endorse commercial products. We welcome diverse views and encourage discussion. However, we ask that comments are respectful. We reserve the right to not publish any we consider offensive. Cochrane UK does not fact check – or endorse – readers’ comments, including any treatments mentioned.

Sarah Chapman and Selena Ryan-Vig have nothing to disclose.

Hearing conditions: evidence, experience and resources by Sarah Chapman and Selena Ryan-Vig

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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