Can hearing loss be treated with surgery or medicines?

Many people hope their hearing loss can be cured through surgery or drugs. We would love to say that there is a miracle cure or a magical silver bullet for hearing loss. However, surgery or drugs are effective in only around 5% of hearing loss cases.

Whether or not surgical intervention can cure your hearing loss depends on your specific type of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is one type that is often treatable with surgery.

Conductive hearing loss is usually the result of an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear. In these cases, the inner ear and auditory nerve remain undamaged.

Causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Buildup of earwax
  • Punctured ear drum
  • Infection
  • Accidental trauma
  • Abnormal growths

Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and a complete recovery or cure is frequently not possible. Sensorineural hearing loss generally involves damage to the delicate hair cells or auditory nerve and this damage is generally irreversible.

If you experience hearing loss, you should seek urgent expert advice whatever the cause. An audiologist will be able to explain what caused your hearing loss, and suggest the best way to improve your hearing. In most cases, hearing aids can restore your hearing to a large extent.

Here then are some medical interventions that are highly successful at restoring conductive hearing loss.

Earwax Buildup

Earwax buildup is a common cause of hearing loss. Fortunately, the treatment is simple and any hearing loss is usually only temporary. Microsuction, Irrigation, and Syringing are three tools that your ear care professional may use to remove hardened earwax.

Ear candling is a popular method some people use to remove earwax but it is potentially very dangerous and there is no scientific evidence to support it. It is always safer and more effective to visit your House of Hearing clinic and get the benefit of a professional earwax removal service.

PE tubes (tympanostomy tubes or grommets)

PE tubes (Pressure Equalization tubes), also known as tympanostomy tubes or grommets, are common operations in young children who experience chronic or frequent ear infections. It is one of the most common surgeries performed on young children and it has an extremely high success rate.

PE tubes may help to:

  • Prevent future ear infections
  • Restore hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear
  • Improve speech and balance difficulties
  • Help children perform better with schoolwork

If your child has tubes inserted it’s always a good idea to invest in some earplugs to protect their ears when they go swimming.

Divers who suffer from barotrauma may also benefit from the insertion of PE tubes. If you have problems equalising the pressure in your ears when diving you may find that custom-fitted earplugs specially designed for divers can help prevent this kind of damage.

Mastoidectomy

A Mastoidectomy is an operation to treat chronic otitis media (persistent middle ear infections). This operation can range from simply removing the infected hair cells from the mastoid bone right through to the complete removal of the eardrum and canal.

Your doctor will usually recommend antibiotics to treat chronic infections before exploring this type of surgery.

Tympanoplasty

Accident trauma or chronic ear disease can damage the delicate eardrum (tympanic membrane).  Tympanoplasty is a surgical operation for the repair of torn or punctured eardrums. The operation usually involves a general anaesthetic and the surgeon will use a section of your own tissue to make a graft to cover the hole.

If there is damage to the middle ear bones, the surgeon may also try to repair that with bones from a donor or a prosthetic device.

Myringoplasty is a less serious option for very small holes. This type of operation only requires a local anaesthetic and the doctor will try to repair the hole with a gel or paper-like substance.

The success rate of this type of operation is very good (around 90%) but, as with any surgical operation, there is always some risk. The surgeon will go over the risks involved with you.

Stapedectomy

A Stapedectomy is a surgical operation that can restore hearing where an abnormal bone growth (‘Otosclerosis’) interferes with the proper function of the middle ear bones. ‘Otosclerosis’ is relatively rare, affecting only about 1% of the population.

It appears to be hereditary. You are 25 percent more likely to develop otosclerosis if one of your parents has the disorder. The risk increases to 50 percent if both parents have otosclerosis. White, middle-aged women are most at risk. Sometimes women can develop otosclerosis following pregnancy.

We don’t know the exact cause of otosclerosis yet but there may be links with hormones released during pregnancy as well as viral diseases such as measles.

During the operation, the surgeon will insert a tiny prosthetic device to bypass the abnormal bone growths and allow the inner ear to process sound as normal. The success rate for this type of surgery is high but in rare cases the hearing may actually be worse after the operation. The surgeon will go over the success rate and risk factors involving this type of surgery.

Cochlear implants

Cochlear implants can restore a significant degree of hearing for adults and children with severe to profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants send sounds via electrodes directly to the auditory nerve. The surgeon places this part of the implant under the skin. An external unit houses a microphone, speech processor and battery.

Drugs and medicines

Although there are a large number of prescription drugs that cause hearing loss (ototoxic), there are none that are approved as suitable for treating hearing loss. A study involving the Southern Illinois School of Medicine and the Department of Defense suggests that D-methionine, an amino acid, may help prevent and even roll back hearing loss. But these results are still very tentative.

So, there are unfortunately no magic potions that will whisk your hearing loss away. Hi-tech hearings aids are still one of the best ways to restore your hearing significantly, without risks. Modern hearing aids can quite simply transform your listening experience.

Today’s technology can help you hear so many sounds you had forgotten. Talk to one of our audiologists today about how an affordable hearing aid can make your life sound even better. And remember, we are no longer talking about those big and chunky hearing aids of the past. Today’s hearing aids are not only sleek and invisible, but they’re also highly intelligent devices that adapt automatically to your environments. Your effort to hear and follow conversations can now be minimized.