Can Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

A Guide to Temporary vs. Permanent Hearing Loss
Last update on Feb, 29, 2024

Nearly 40 million American adults have hearing loss. Although a common condition, hearing loss is not the same for everyone and can vary in cause and severity and affect one or both ears.

Even mild hearing loss can be extremely frustrating to live with, as it can disrupt your routine, hobbies, work environment, and even family life.

Fortunately, many devices and treatments are available to help safeguard your hearing and protect against further damage, allowing you to continue living a fulfilling life without missing out on your favorite sounds.

Though hearing loss is different for everyone, the question on most people's minds is the same: can hearing loss be reversed? The answer, unfortunately, is a bit more complicated.

Processing Sounds: How Our Ears Work

Before diving deeper into this discussion, let's review how we process sound.

Sound waves enter the outer ear, pass through the middle and inner ear, and are then processed by the brain. In the inner ear, tiny hair-like cells transform the vibrations of the sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain processes. The average person is born with about 16,000 of these hair-like cells, and their deterioration is often the cause of hearing loss.

Now, back to the question on the floor: can you reverse hearing loss?

  • The answer is typically yes if your hearing loss develops from temporary blockage, such as ear wax buildup of fluid in the middle ear, which can typically be treated and resolved.
  • The answer is no if your hearing loss is caused by permanent inner ear or nerve pathway damage.


How To Tell If Hearing Loss Is Permanent or Temporary

The best way to determine whether hearing loss is permanent or temporary is to consult a hearing care provider. An audiologist can perform a thorough hearing evaluation to determine the type and severity of your hearing loss and its potential causes.

Following an evaluation, your hearing care provider will typically put your hearing loss in one of three categories: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.

Sensorineural Loss

Conductive Loss

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common of the three categories. It occurs when there is damage to the hair cells within the cochlea, a bony snail-shaped organ in the inner ear.

Noise exposure and aging are among this category's most common causes of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, meaning you cannot reverse the damage done.

Individuals with this condition can still lead fulfilling lives with the assistance of hearing aids or other assistive technology for hearing.

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Conductive Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

A blockage in the outer or middle ear usually causes conductive hearing loss, often impacted ear wax in the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, or a ruptured eardrum. Conductive hearing loss differs from sensorineural hearing loss in that it is usually reversible because the cause of the hearing loss can typically be removed, treated, or repaired.

Learn more about the differences between sensorineural vs. conductive hearing loss

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Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that happens when there is damage to the conductive (outer or middle ear) and sensorineural (inner ear) systems. While some parts of this hearing loss can be treated medically, complete hearing restoration is unlikely.
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Can Hearing Loss Be Restored Naturally?

If you're facing any hearing difficulties, even minor ones, there is likely an underlying cause that requires medical attention. Waiting for it to go away on its own is not recommended. Prompt medical attention to a change in hearing is the best way to prevent futher hearing loss.  Scheduling a hearing evaluation with a hearing care provider in your area can help you identify hearing loss early on and discuss effective treatment options to prevent a worsening of symptoms.

Depending on the type and cause of your hearing loss, it may be possible to restore some level of hearing through medical treatment or surgery.

For example, conductive hearing loss caused by blockages in the outer or middle ear can often be reversed through simple procedures such as removing impacted ear wax or draining fluid from the middle ear. For most types of hearing loss, hearing aids are the best option to improve hearing and communication abilities. 

Is There a Way to Reverse Hearing Loss?

Can Sudden Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

Sudden hearing loss (or Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss) is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. The chances of reversing sudden hearing loss depend on the cause of the loss.

In some cases, such as when it is caused by earwax or an infection, hearing can be fully restored with prompt treatment. However, if the sudden hearing loss is due to damage to the hair-like cells or the auditory nerve, the chances of reversing it are lower.

Can Surgery Reverse Hearing Loss?

Surgery is a common remedy for some types of hearing loss, particularly conductive hearing loss.

Inserting middle ear tubes, implanting bone-anchored hearing systems, or stapedectomies are some common surgical remedies for hearing loss depending on the cause of the hearing loss.

New Research on Reversing Hearing Loss

Scientists are currently researching ways to reverse permanent hearing loss in older adults. MIT and Harvard Institute have each conducted research trials using stem cell regenerative therapy in an effort to restore damaged hair-like cells caused by noise-induced and sensorineural hearing loss.

It's important to note that these trials are still in their early stages. 

Schedule Your Hearing Care Visit

Does your insurance cover a hearing evaluation?

For many adults and children, hearing aids are still the most effective option for managing hearing loss and ensuring you never miss a beat.

To get the hearing care you need, scheduling regular hearing exams is highly recommended.

Unsure if you're covered for a hearing evaluation?

You can easily check your benefits now and find a hearing care provider in your neighborhood. If you have questions about your coverage or what to expect at your visit, our team can help!

Check your benefits
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