Can Hearing Loss Be Cured?
Hearing loss is the loss of the ability to hear correctly either in one ear or both ears. This condition can affect a person at any age, though it is most commonly found in people above 60. It is estimated that 15% of the adult population in the world suffer from hearing loss.
In Asia, there is a lack of proper data about the prevalence among third-world countries. However, as per the World Health Organisation’s estimates, 401 million people in South East Asia suffers from some degree of hearing loss. This is expected to grow to 666 million by 2050.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
There are various symptoms depending on the type and its cause. Broadly, those who experience hearing loss will experience the following symptoms:
- Ability to hear sound but not being able to understand words clearly.
- Having to keep the TV volume at a high level to hear properly.
- Asking people to repeat themselves often while having a conversation.
- Difficulty in communicating in noisy areas.
- Avoiding social gatherings that were once enjoyable.
What are the different types of hearing loss?
1. Sensorial hearing loss
This condition is a permanent hearing loss caused by damage to the tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear. These cells are responsible for carrying messages about the sound, its loudness and pitch to the brain. When these cells are damaged, you are not able to recognise the sound properly.
Those with sensorial hearing loss will have difficulty making out sounds no matter how loud. This occurs due to ageing, injury, disease or exposure to loud noise. Hearing aids help a lot in treating this condition.
2. Conductive hearing loss
In this condition, sound waves cannot reach the inner ear because of some obstructions, such as ear wax or any foreign object in the ear canal. Sometimes, fluid in the middle ear or abnormality of the bone can also cause this type of hearing loss.
This is most commonly found in children and can be corrected through medical intervention.
3. Mixed hearing loss
This type is a combination of sensorial and conductive hearing loss.
Who are at risk?
The following factors can increase your risk of developing hearing loss.
- Age: As you age, the inner ear structure degenerates over time, resulting in hearing loss.
- Exposure to loud noise: If you are continuously exposed to loud noise like occupational or recreational noise (e.g. sound related to factory work, carpentry or loud music), the chances of developing hearing loss are high.
- Hereditary: If hearing loss is inherent in your genes, the chances of developing the same is high.
- Medication: Certain types of antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, as well as very high doses of painkillers, can cause damage to the inner ear.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
Your doctor will first examine your ear to find any possible causes of hearing loss. If there is ear wax, it will be removed, which can improve hearing. Similarly, in the case of any infection in the ear, it will be treated and hearing should improve.
Hearing screening test
During a hearing screening test, the doctor will ask you to cover one ear, and you are then exposed to different volumes of sound. Based on your response, the doctor can diagnose the extent of hearing loss.
Behavioural audiometry evaluation
Behavioural audiometry evaluation checks the functioning of all parts of the ear. This test is done when the person is awake and detects how the person responds to different types of sound.
In addition to the above tests, there are various other tests like Auditory Brainstem Response and Otoacoustic Emission that can be performed even when the person is sleeping.
Can hearing loss be cured?
The cure depends on its cause. If it is age-related, there is no cure. Otherwise, any of the below treatment options are available depending on the cause.
Removing ear wax
If the hearing loss is caused by ear wax, removing the wax helps in regaining hearing. The doctor will either use the suction method or a small tool to remove wax from the ear.
A hearing aid is helpful if a defect in the inner ear is the cause of hearing loss. An audiologist can guide you in selecting the right hearing aid and how to use it.
A cochlear implant is done if the conventional hearing aid does not provide the desired result. The cochlear implant is a small device that is fitted behind the ear. The device bypasses that portion of the ear that is damaged and delivers sound to the hearing nerve.
Hearing loss can affect any person at any time, though it is most common among the elderly. It affects your ability to hear sound clearly and understand conversations. The fortunate thing about this condition is that treatment and management options are available. Through the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant, your hearing capacity can be considerably improved. Surgeries are also available that can restore your hearing ability to a great extent.