Is it possible to restore hearing loss?
Some particular types of hearing loss can be reversed, however most hearing loss can’t be restored. It can be effectively treated and managed so people can still live full lives. In other words, people’s ability to hear can normally be improved by applying modern technology and helpful habits.
Types of hearing loss that can be reversed
Hearing loss that can be reversed falls under the category of temporary hearing loss.
Temporary hearing loss can be a type called conductive hearing loss. This is where the path of sound from the outer ear to the inner ear is interrupted, hindering the passage of sound.
Another temporary type of hearing loss is sudden hearing loss. This is where the onset of hearing loss is relatively fast, typically occurring over a few days or even hours.
Restoring sudden hearing loss
Sudden hearing loss can be reversed in some cases, a long as you act fast! It’s essential to contact your doctor and begin treatment quickly. This is often a steroid medication which can ease inflammation and restore your hearing. However, the window of opportunity is short – after a few days, the temporary hearing loss tends to become permanent.
If the sudden hearing loss is caused by a disease or virus, doctors may prescribe antiviral or antibiotic medicines.
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Reversing other types of temporary hearing loss
The other types of temporary hearing loss are usually less sudden. These are forms of conductive hearing loss caused by either a blockage in the ear, disease, or damage to the bones in the middle ear.
Treating these types of hearing loss can be as simple as removing a blockage, which can be caused by a foreign object or accumulated earwax. If the blockage is caused by swelling or another medical condition, medication or surgery can remove the blockage and restore the person’s hearing.
In the case of damage to the bones in the middle ear (the stapes), it may be possible to surgically align the bones properly so sound can travel through them again into the inner ear (stapedectomy).
If hearing loss is caused by the build-up of fluid behind the eardrum in the middle ear, it can be improved by surgically inserting ear ventilation tubes that allow the fluid to drain out.
Understanding hearing loss
Which types of hearing loss are permanent?
Unfortunately, most hearing loss is permanent. This includes age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) and noise-induced hearing loss. These types are caused by damage to the tiny, hair-like sensory cells in the inner ear, in a part called the cochlea.
These sensory cells lose sensitivity as we get older, and they can’t regrow. They are also damaged by sudden loud sounds, and by prolonged exposure to loud noise. For this reason, it’s not possible to reverse hearing damage from headphones or loud machinery – so it’s essential to protect your hearing properly.
Can cochlear damage be repaired?
Cochlear implants are used to restore hearing – but are typically only given to people with severe hearing loss. For most people, hearing aids are better solution.
Can hearing aids help reverse hearing loss?
Modern hearing aids can restore many aspects of normal hearing. By improving hearing power in old age, they can help people with hearing loss live a rich life, and bring back many of the sounds of life. What is more, hearing aids help people remain socially active, and keeps the brain stimulated. This safeguards mental health and may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
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The newest research on reversing hearing loss
There are plenty of scientists working on reversing age-related hearing loss and even trying to cure hearing loss altogether. They are investigating how to regenerate hair cells for hearing loss – using stem cell therapy among other approaches. However, we have yet to see a breakthrough in new hearing loss treatments.
For most people, the best way to restore your hearing remains being fitted with high-quality hearing aids by a hearing care professional.
Do you have hearing loss?
It’s a good idea to check your hearing once a year. If you’ve noticed any symptoms of hearing loss – and even if you haven’t – take our free online hearing test to get a quick indication of your hearing abilities here.