Treatment of hearing loss

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Hearing loss is treated based on the cause of the hearing impairment. Usually those with conductive hearing loss benefit from therapy and may be prescribed hearing aids.

However, those with sensorineural hearing loss may have a more permanent condition that cannot be treated. This is because in these patients the nerves and the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea are damaged and these cannot be repaired and these remain damaged for the rest of a person’s life. However, there are methods to deal with hearing loss that can improve the quality of life. (1-5)

Hearing loss treatment

Treatment of hearing loss includes:

  • Removal of wax or foreign object that is leading to a conductive hearing loss
  • An acute or long term infection of the middle ear may also lead to hearing loss. These need to be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
  • Ear drum perforation after infection or injury can be corrected with a surgery called tympanoplasty. A flap of tissue is taken and the membrane is repaired to restore hearing.

Hearing aids

These are devices that serve to increase the volume of the sounds entering the ear and help the person to hear more clearly. These include parts like a microphone, amplifier, loudspeaker and a battery.

Earlier hearing aids were large and often visible. These days the aids are very small and discreet and can be worn inside the ear. The aid works simply with the microphone picking up the sound, and the amplifier increasing its volume.

These can also distinguish between background noise and conversation and selectively help hear conversation.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are available these days that sit within the ear and have a potion that goes behind the ear. These may have two microphones that help the patient to listen to sounds in the general vicinity or to focus on a conversation or sound from a particular direction.

Other types are In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids and Completely in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids.

Hearing aids may also be Body-worn (BW) hearing aids with a small box containing the microphone clipped to the clothes or placed within the pocket.

These may be used with best benefits in mild to moderate hearing loss and are useless in profound and sensorineural deafness.

Some hearing aids are useful in bone conduction defects. These vibrate in response to the sounds going into the microphone. Another variety is the bone anchored hearing aid called the Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA).

Another variety is the CROS hearing aid that is useful in people who only have hearing in one ear. The aid picks up sounds to the bad ear and transmits it to the good ear.

BiCROS hearing aids may be used similarly in people who do not have any hearing in one ear and have limited hearing in the other ear. Some people may also use Disposable hearing aids.

Other treatments for hearing loss

  • Some patients may need middle ear implants as well. These are inserted within the ear with the help of a short surgical procedure. These help the ossicles to conduct the sounds within the ear.
  • Cochlear implants – These are inner ear implants that can be placed within the ear with a surgery. These may be used in patients with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears.
  • Patients with moderate to profound hearing loss need to learn a sign language or lip reading. These include the British Sign Language (BSL) or Signed English and Paget Gorman Signed Speech.

Methods to cope with hearing loss

Patients with hearing loss may adopt simple tips to cope. These include:

  • Patients need to own up about their hearing impairment so that speakers speak louder and clearer and do not resort to short forms and whispers
  • Looking at the lips of the speaker when they speak helps
  • Conversations can be held at quieter places for easy understandability
  • Family and friend support for the patients with hearing loss is vital for coping with hearing loss

Prevention of hearing loss

Prevention of hearing loss involves reducing the risks. These include:

  • Ear infections need to be treated in childhood so that they do not lead to long term hearing loss
  • Ear wax accumulation should be prevented
  • Nothing should be inserted within the ear canal. This includes toys, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissue.
  • Loud noises from music systems, work environment can damage hearing. These should be avoided or special ear protection gear should be adopted.
  • Since certain viral infections may lead to hearing loss all children need vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella infections

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2012

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