Experiencing hearing loss can be absolutely devastating to an individual, no matter how minor the hearing loss. If you’ve experienced hearing loss or you fear that you will because you are frequently exposed to loud noises at work or during regular activities, you might be wondering if there is a way to reverse it. Let’s answer some frequently asked questions to understand a little more about hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss does not look the same for everyone. There are varying levels of severity (mild, moderate, severe, profound) and three different types of hearing loss. These include conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common, is the result of damage to the inner ear nerves and hair cells (cilia). This damage may be caused by a number of things, including aging, loud noises, medications, and health conditions. Conductive hearing loss happens when there is an obstruction in the outer or middle ear that blocks sound from passing through to the inner ear. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Reversing Hearing Loss
Whether or not you can reverse hearing loss is dependent upon the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing. Sensorineural hearing loss causes permanent hearing loss because it damages the nerves and cilia of the ear. This damage cannot be reversed.
On the other hand, conductive hearing loss is caused by an obstruction in the ear, such as impacted wax. This leaves the auditory nerve undamaged. Depending on what causes conductive hearing loss, it may or may not be permanent. If wax is preventing sound from traveling to the inner ear, hearing loss can be reversed once the wax is removed. But, if conductive hearing loss is caused by a break in the connection between bones, it cannot be reversed.
Hearing Loss Solutions
Even if some types of hearing loss cannot be reversed, there are ways forward. Hearing aids and cochlear implants have shown great promise for individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged nerves and cilia and move sound directly to the auditory nerve, making it a great option for many people with sensorineural hearing loss at all levels of severity. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, simply removing the blockage is enough to get some, if not all hearing back. There is a chance that the blockage is a result of ear abnormalities, such as a narrow ear canal, thickening of bones, or growths. While growths can be removed surgically, ear abnormalities are more difficult to fix and your doctor may recommend specific hearing aids or ear implants to help.
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