Hearing loss is a condition that may occur either gradually over a period of time, or suddenly due to trauma or some other disease. Loss of hearing may be of three types: Conductive, Sensorineural, or Mixed. Conductive hearing loss occurs due to problems in the outer and middle ear like deformations in ear canal and structures of middle ear, infection, common cold, allergy, damaged eardrum, earwax buildup, or foreign objects in the ear canal. Sensorineural hearing loss, also called nerve related hearing loss occurs due to problems of the inner ear. These include exposure to a sudden burst of loud noise or chronic exposure to loud noise over a prolonged period of time, a trauma of the head, infection or other disease, a genetic trend of developing hearing loss, ageing, defective development of inner ear structures, tumor, otosclerosis, etc. Otosclerosis is a genetic condition where a bony outgrowth develops around the ear ossicles stopping their vibrations with sound. It can be a cause for conductive hearing loss as well as sensorineural hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss occurs due to a combination of conductive and sensorineural causes of hearing loss.
Hearing loss treatment can be done in different ways. Earwax buildup cleaning as well as removal of foreign objects can be performed using small non invasive tools. Medications can restore hearing in a number of cases caused by external factors like infection or inflammation. Surgical treatment methods are also adopted in a number of cases. Hearing aids are used in cases where recovery of natural hearing is not possible.
Treatments for hearing loss depend on the condition causing it. Most non hereditary cases are usually reversible completely. Earwax buildup can be removed by small non invasive tools. Foreign objects stuck inside the ear can also be removed with similar tools. Hearing loss caused by cold or allergies can be corrected by curing the cold or allergic condition. Infections of the ear are treated with antimicrobial or antifungal drugs. Hearing loss due to acoustic trauma is treated with corticosteroidal drugs to reduce inflammation of the auditory hairs. Hearing loss due to trauma can be approached surgically with varying success rates. Tumors that affect the auditory nerve can be surgically removed, but hearing restoration may not be possible. Defects and malformations of the ear canal, middle ear, and inner ear need surgical intervention to be corrected. Otosclerosis is also corrected surgically. In case surgery does not work, a hearing aid is advised. Cochlear implants that directly stimulate the auditory nerve are used in cases where hearing loss cannot be managed or restored even by surgical methods and hearing aids cannot produce results as in case of otosclerosis.
Treatment for hearing loss is need by those who experience a loss in hearing, either slowly over a period of time, or suddenly due to a physical or an acoustic trauma. Those at risk include people who are exposed to loud noises regularly for a prolonged period of time, those with a known genetic history of hearing loss, those with malformed ear structures, those who have contracted an ear infection, or those who have gone through a head trauma such as fractured skull.
People who do not have any indication of developing a permanent or long term hearing loss are excluded from the treatment. Sometimes a sudden loud noise can cause tinnitus or a ringing noise in the ear which is accompanied by loss of hearing. However, this loss is mostly temporary and hearing is restored normally in a few hours. No treatment for hearing loss is required in such cases.
Side effects of hearing loss treatments are usually minimal. There is a slight chance of infection if improperly sterilized instruments are used to clean earwax buildup or ear canal is damaged in any way. Long term use of corticosteroids has its own side effects. Hearing aids have a slight chance of causing ear canal damage or infection if they are improperly fitted.
If hearing is restored, no specific post treatment guidelines are required to be followed. Insertion of foreign objects into the ear canal by oneself is never advised. Surgical procedures need to be followed up with post treatment guidelines that are prescribed by a healthcare professional. Hearing aids need to be maintained and cleaned properly. Avoiding loud or noisy environments even for limited periods of time is always advisable.
Recovery period from hearing loss lasts as long as the treatment is carried out as all treatment methods that are successful are stopped upon restoration of hearing. In case of people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, variable lengths of time are required to adjust to hearing with their devices.
Medications for recovery from hearing loss are available under Rs. 1000. Hearing aids and cochlear implants can cost up to Rs. 3 lakhs. Surgical procedures cost more, but they do not necessarily restore hearing and patients need to adopt hearing aids as well.
Treatments for hearing loss are aimed to recover hearing if possible, or manage the decline in hearing if not. For people who recover natural hearing, the treatment results last for lifetime as long as another factor causing hearing loss does not set in. For those who need to use hearing aid, hearing is restored artificially and hence lasts for a lifetime.