Is Hearing Loss Reversible?

Last update on May, 20, 2022

Millions of people deal with varying levels of hearing loss, which can become increasingly frustrating since it can alter your everyday life. There are so many resources that advise on how to preserve your hearing, and if you do have hearing loss, there are resources that advise on how to maintain that level of loss and prevent it from getting worse. But is there a way to restore hearing loss altogether? The simple, yet complicated, answer is yes and no.

All hearing loss is not the same. There are three major categories of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed, and based on which category you fall into impacts whether there is a chance to reverse your hearing loss. 

Before explaining these categories of hearing loss, we must understand how we process sound. Sound waves enter the outer ear, pass through middle, and inner ear, and are then processed by the brain. In the inner ear, there are tiny hair-like cells that transform the vibrations of the sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain processes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone is born with about 16,000 of these hair-like cells. The deterioration of these hair cells is the cause of most hearing loss. 

Types of Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common of the three categories of hearing loss, occurs when there is damage to the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ located in the inner ear that also houses those all-important hair-like cells. Noise exposure and aging are the most common forms of hearing loss within this category. This type of hearing loss is irreversible but is treatable. 

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by a blockage in the middle ear, often impacted earwax, fluid in the middle ear, or a ruptured ear drum. This type of hearing loss is reversable in most cases because the impact is something that can be removed, treated, or repaired.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there is damage to the outer or middle ear. In this case, some portions of this loss can be reversed with medical treatment, but heaing is unlikely to be restored to normal. 

Surgery is a common remedy for some types of hearing loss. Inserting middle ear tubes, implanting bone-anchored hearing systems, or stapedectomies are just a few of the common surgical remedies for hearing loss. Additionally, scientists at MIT conducted trials with over 200 patients in a new regenerative therapy to try and restore hearing to those with hearing loss. This regenerative therapy uses stem cells to replace the damaged hair-like cells that we discussed earlier. Results are mixed, at this point, but trials are in the early stages.

For the vast majority of adult hearing loss, hearing aids are the best, least expensive, and most effective treatment option. The best way to preserve your hearing is to make sure to schedule regular hearing exams with your hearing care professional. Schedule your appointment now if you haven’t done so, and as always, strive to proactively protect your hearing

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