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Can hearing loss be reversed?

Some types of hearing loss can be reversed. But some types can’t. If you suspect you’re losing your hearing, the first step is to talk with a doctor. One of the most important things you can do to protect your hearing is to avoid loud noises, particularly through headphones or ear buds. Here’s a bit more information on the three types of hearing loss.


Sensorineural hearing loss

Hearing loss caused by damage to your auditory nerve or the cilia – tiny hairlike structures in the inner ear – may be permanent. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss, and it’s caused by exposure to loud noises, genetic factors, the natural aging process and some diseases. Sensorineural hearing loss can sometimes be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants.


Cochlear implants can bypass the injured or damaged part of the auditory system to directly stimulate the auditory nerve and perhaps partially reverse hearing loss. There are widely different views on cochlear implants within the D/deaf community and often low success rates, so anyone considering one is encouraged to do extensive research.


Conductive hearing loss

If sound is inhibited from reaching your inner ear by an obstruction in or damage to your middle or outer ear – called conductive hearing loss – there’s a chance the hearing loss can be reversed, particularly if your inner ear and auditory nerve aren’t damaged. Wax buildup is an easily treated cause of conductive hearing loss. Other causes include infection, abnormal growths, an accident or foreign objects in the ear.


Mixed hearing loss

Sometimes there’s a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, called mixed hearing loss. In that case, there’s a chance hearing can improve, depending on the cause.


Outlook

If your hearing has been impacted, your doctor may suggest you see an otolaryngologist – or ear, nose and throat doctor, or ENT – who specializes in the ear, nose, throat and neck. Your doctor or ENT can diagnose the type of hearing loss you have and suggest treatment options. If your hearing loss isn’t reversible, you can find support from DeafConnect and other organizations.


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