Hearing Loss Treatment
Treatment for hearing loss will typically depend on the type of hearing loss –whether temporary, reversible, or permanent. Treatment for permanent hearing loss typically includes the use of hearing implants or other devices. While treatment may not bring back your hearing, it can help make communication, work and daily activities, and social interaction easier. The causes of gradual or sudden hearing loss can range, from damage to the inner ear to a buildup of earwax. Many people with hearing loss are unaware that an early treatment has the potential to transform their lives.
Hearing Loss Causes
The ear consists of three major parts: the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear. As sounds are heard, sound waves are moved through the outer ear causing vibrations in the eardrum. Three bones within the middle ear – the hammer, stirrup, and anvil – as well as the eardrum, amplify these vibrations as they make their way to the inner ear. The vibrations are then transferred through the fluid of the cochlea which has thousands of hairs that help translate the vibrations into electrical signals sent to the brain. Hearing loss causes are typically associated with damage to the inner and outer workings of the ears.
Injury to the inner ear: Normal wear and tear caused by aging or exposure to loud noises can cause damage to the nerve cells or hairs of the cochlea, known as sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent but several technological hearing devices can help amplify sounds.
Buildup of earwax: A gradual buildup of earwax can lead to a block in the ear canal, preventing sound waves from passing through. This problem can occur in people of all ages and is known as conductive hearing loss. With conductive hearing loss, some or all hearing can typically be restored.
Ear Infection: Infections can begin in the outer and middle ear, causing conductive hearing loss. Tumors and abnormal bone growths is another factor among hearing loss causes.
Ruptured Eardrum: Loud noises, drastic changes in pressure, infection, or poking the eardrum with a foreign object can cause the eardrum to rupture, typically leading to sudden hearing loss. It is also possible to go deaf in the damaged ear, but the deafness is usually temporary.
Hearing Loss Treatment
The first step in treating hearing loss is for your physician to make an accurate diagnosis. Before a treatment can be considered, it’s important to find out what caused the hearing problem. If there is an underlying condition, that must be treated first. Hearing aids are typically provided to amplify sound, such as for people with sensorineural hearing loss. Surgery may be required for people who have reoccurring hearing loss from chronic ear infections and such.
Treatment for reversible hearing loss will depend on the cause. While sudden hearing loss may occur, it is typically temporary. Hearing impairment caused by:
- An ear infection should clear up on its own, usually with the help of antibiotics.
- Earwax is treated by removing wax. Do not use a cotton swab or foreign object to remove the wax as this can push it deeper into the ear.
- Ototoxic medicines – such as ibuprofen or aspirin – can cause hearing loss and hearing can be improved when the user stops taking the medications.
- Injury to the head or neck may heal on its own or may require surgery
- An autoimmune condition is typically treated with corticosteroids.
Permanent hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises or age can often be improved with the help of a hearing device. These devices may include:
- Hearing aids. Hearing aids are designed to amplify sounds, making communication easier, often used by hard-of-hearing and deaf people.
- Implanted hearing devices: Implanted devices, such as a cochlear implant, can help improve some specific hearing problems and is worn outside the ear. More modern implants are put within the ear.
- Assistive listening devices. These can include communication aids that use lights or visual or vibration technologies to alert people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf.
Gradual and sudden hearing loss are more common than many people think, affecting more than 17 percent of Americans who report some degree of hearing loss. There are many preventative measures one can take to prevent hearing impairment, but some hearing loss causes, such as age, cannot be prevented. With an early diagnosis and treatment, some hearing may be able to be restored. If not, there are a wide range of hearing devices now available to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.