Hearing is a key sense. One on which we rely on for our safety, to socialise and communicate, to learn, work and have fun. It’s something we expect to have when we’re born, but also something that, for a number of reasons, doesn’t always stay with us. But what happens when we lose our hearing? Can hearing loss be reversed?
For many reasons, it’s very important to do your best to protect and maintain your hearing health. Funny enough, we hear this all the time, but it never really clicks until something is actually wrong with our hearing. For most of us, our lives begin with hearing that’s in line with 20-20 vision. We hear all the sounds that are important to us and don’t struggle to communicate, as so many people with untreated hearing loss do.
Only as we notice the first signs of decline, we start to worry about hearing loss and look for ways to fix or stop it. The causes for hearing loss are diverse: It can start with a sickness that leads to a build-up of fluids in the eardrum. Or we damage our hearing with medication and excessive day-to-day noise. Or, we may simply be witnessing the beginning of age-related hearing loss.
To understand the treatment options for the above-mentioned causes, we need to answer a few questions along the way: What is hearing loss? What types of hearing loss are there? And finally, can your hearing be restored, or once it’s damaged have you lost it for good?
Because hearing is so very important, whether there is a cure for loss of hearing is a very common question. But it’s not all that simple.
Depending on the nature and extent of the problem, you may be able to get only some of your hearing back. In some cases, medical options are very limited.
There are a number of parts to the hearing pathway we need to consider when thinking about different types of hearing loss.
We have our outer ear, the part we see and most of us know as the ear, and the ear canal. And we have the more complicated middle ear. It’s made up of our eardrum, tiny bones and muscles. Then there is the inner ear, the cochlea and hearing nerve. Our brain processes sound and gives it meaning. All these different parts play their role in the hearing process. And they’re all very sensitive.
To learn more about how your hearing works, check out this article we recently shared.
Because there are so many parts involved in the hearing pathway, it’s important to fully test your hearing in order to understand what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.
Understanding where the hearing loss is coming from can largely tell us if the loss is one that can be fixed with:
So firstly, having a full hearing test is a good option. It can be the basis for finding out whether your hearing loss can be helped and how it can be helped, most importantly.
Some types of hearing loss are temporary. It may be related to a build-up of wax or debris like excess skin cells, or a build-up of the pressure behind the eardrums (which is very common for school-aged kids).
Blocked ears are rather common and can lead to temporary hearing loss. If the trouble is caused by a build-up of debris in the outer ear, it can be washed away or removed by an Audiologist, GP or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. This is a fairly simple process and can restore a person’s hearing quite well in most cases.
Sometimes the bones that help the eardrum to function can start to calcify and struggle to move. Their job to conduct sound through the middle ear system to the inner ear isn’t as easily managed.
In some instances, this type of hearing loss can be assisted with surgery where these bones are replaced for a prosthesis. This is something to definitely speak with an Audiologist or an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist about.
If there’s a build-up of pressure or fluid behind the eardrum, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist could surgically insert an equalising tube in the eardrum. This surgery doesn’t exactly restore a person’s hearing, but it can help with alleviating the problem that was causing the trouble in the first place – fluid or pressure.
Children frequently have this kind of hearing loss, as the structures of their ears are still developing, making middle ear concerns and infections much more common.
For most adults, however, hearing loss tends to come from a part further on in the hearing pathway – the inner ear. This kind of hearing loss tends to be more permanent.
Certain illnesses, medications, exposure to paints and solvents, and impulse noise or sustained noise can cause significant damage to a person’s hearing.
How to identify this type of hearing loss in yourself and others? It often looks like withdrawal from conversations, avoiding to talk on the phone or laughing a little behind everyone else.
In cases of permanent hearing loss, technology is our go-to to helper to restore hearing. Technically, if the inner ear is damaged, we can’t get the hearing back. Once it’s hurt, it is hurt. So, we look to technology to aid our hearing, rather than restore it.
Nowadays, hearing aids are very discreet pieces of technology. That wasn’t always the case. Just like our computers and phones, hearing aids have become exceptionally compact and much more user-friendly over the years.
A hearing health professional chooses a hearing aid with the patient’s needs in mind. Not only their hearing needs but their preference for the look of the hearing device and their comfort levels with wearing a hearing aid.
Hearing aids can be worn completely or partially inside the ear. More robust versions position the majority of electronics behind the outer ear.
Every hearing aid is specifically adjusted to its wearer. This ensures that the device is suitable for their type of hearing loss and hearing needs. That includes the overall volume, and pitches they may have difficulty with. Hearing aids can be set up to capture every noise, like a normal hearing person’s ears would. They also give you the option to be a bit more selective.
For many people, hearing aids are a tangible way to reverse hearing loss.
A hearing aid, programmed by an Audiologist to amplify sounds in your environment to a safe and helpful level, can greatly improve your quality of life. It’ll restore your hearing, allowing you to communicate in person and on the phone, to watch TV, being in on jokes and hearing well at work.
Hearing aids not only offer assistance in cases of hearing loss, but may also lessen the chance of falls, improve cognitive health, and help to maintain your hearing in the long run. While not an actual restoration of your natural hearing, they are of great benefit to your overall health and well-being.
Another option for some cases of hearing loss are cochlear implants. They work well for people with limited residual hearing and a very poor ability to hear speech clearly.
Cochlear implants are surgical implants, which work by bypassing the damaged cochlea (a part of the inner ear system), stimulating the nerves that send impulses to the brain, where we process sound.
A significant amount of testing goes into seeing whether someone is a candidate for a cochlear implant. It is a serious medical procedure and using hearing aids before proceeding to an implant is a must. This is to see whether the person could benefit from a less invasive option.
If you think you or a loved one may suffer from hearing loss, the best thing to do is to have a hearing test. Your Audiologist can assess your hearing properly and from there, find the most suitable solution to restore your hearing.
If you have more questions on reversing hearing loss or would like to make an appointment with one of our highly qualified Audiologists to find out which solution is the right fit for you, give us a call at 1300 736 702 or book an appointment online.