Hearing loss can be permanent or reversible. Treatment for reversible hearing loss depends on the underlying cause as well as the type and degree of hearing loss.
Some causes of hearing loss have simple solutions. For example, if hearing loss is caused by ototoxic medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, symptoms often improve once the person stops taking the medicine. Hearing loss caused by earwax buildup is simply treated by removing the wax.
Other causes of reversible hearing loss can be treated with medications. Fluid in the middle ear due to an ear infection could clear up on its own or be treated with antibiotics. Hearing loss caused by an autoimmune problem can be treated with corticosteroid medicines.
Some diseases and injuries require surgery to restore hearing. Otosclerosis and acoustic neuroma are often treated with surgery. Ménière’s disease is most often managed with medicines but it can be treated surgically when medical management fails. Hearing loss resulting from head trauma can often be reversed through surgical repair of damaged middle ear structures.
The treatments that are available for permanent hearing loss, such as noise-induced hearing loss, focus on improving hearing, preventing further hearing loss, and developing alternative communication skills. Although some forms of treatment can improve your ability to hear, they cannot fully restore normal hearing.
Assistive listening devices and hearing aids are common treatments for hearing loss. These devices amplify sound in the ear. A cochlear implant may be recommended for certain people with severe hearing loss.
Unlike hearing aids, the implant does not amplify sound to activate residual inner ear function. Instead, cochlear implants bypass the damaged cochlea and electrically stimulate the hearing nerve. Other implanted devices provide hearing through bone conduction or by amplifying energy through the middle ear. These types of devices are useful when hearing aids are unsuccessful and cochlear implantation is not yet indicated.
Other treatments focus on finding ways to cope with hearing loss by developing alternative communication skills. Learning sign language or lip reading are examples of this kind of treatment.
Protecting your ears from further damage is a key part of treatment. Wear ear plugs or noise muffs around loud equipment or when you participate in loud recreational activities. You may not be able to restore the hearing you’ve already lost, but you can prevent losing the hearing you still have.