Hearing is one of the most important senses that impacts our perception of our environment. Still, many people have to deal with the problems that come with hearing loss, which changes how they interact with their loved ones and the world around them.
This means hearing loss has more effects than just making it harder to hear. It can make it hard to communicate and make people feel alone, and in the worst cases, it can even lead to cognitive decline. There are also safety issues. People with trouble hearing might be unable to hear alarms, warnings, or other important sounds, which could put their health at risk. Seeing these problems makes it clear how important it is to be aware of hearing loss and act quickly to help people with trouble hearing treat hearing loss.
Regular hearing tests are important, especially for people who are at a higher risk, so that problems can be found and treated quickly. People with hearing loss can still live full lives if they get the right care and management.
Learn more about the symptoms and causes of various forms of hearing loss by clicking here. What follows is a review of the current state of the art in hearing enhancement and restoration for treating hearing loss.
So let’s dive in!
Methods For Treating Hearing Loss
Thankfully, there are devices that can improve our hearing, which alleviates this communication issue.
Medical treatments for hearing loss primarily focus on addressing its underlying causes. Doctors may prescribe medications after the complete diagnosis. Such as
- For Conductive Hearing Loss: drugs to treat ear infections, such as antibiotics.
- For Sensorineural Hearing Loss: medications for reducing swelling in the cochlea hair cells, such as corticosteroids.
- For Mixed Hearing loss:Treatments differ by outer, middle, and inner ear condition.
Medication, however, is not a treatment option for all kinds of hearing loss.
2. Aids and Assistive Devices
The two most prevalent types of assistive hearing devices are hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Hearing aids are the most common assistive devices for treating hearing loss. They do not cure hearing loss, but they can help treat or manage it. They function by amplifying low, mid, and high-volume noises to make speech audible at a suitable and comfortable volume.
Types of Hearing Aids
There are many types of hearing aids available on the market and the best choice will be made by doctor on the basis of personal preference, the individual’s home and work activities, as well as his or her physical limitations and medical condition
These aids are extremely minuscule, undetectable, and can nestle inside the ear. Its main parts include a microphone, a woofer, an amplifier, and a battery. Newer models are advanced and can easily differentiate between background and front noises, such as speech.
The types of hearing aids include
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids: These hearing aids are placed inside the outer ear in plastic containers. These ITE hearing aids are designed to assist individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss. They have the capability to integrate with additional technical hearing devices, including the telecoil, which is a mechanism employed to enhance telephone call sound quality. But due to their smaller size, they can accumulate earwax and ear drainage.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids: A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid is designed to sit behind the ear rather than in front of it. These types of hearing aids are usually prescribed for treating hearing loss of mild to severe type. They are more versatile when it comes to picking up noises, but they may also cause whistling in the ear if not fitted properly.
- Canal aids: These hearing aids look and function similarly to a traditional behind-the-ear model, except that the speaker or receiver is located within the ear canal. In place of tubing, the component behind the ear is linked to the speaker or receiver via a little wire. They are available in two sizes: complete-in-canal (CIC) and in-the-canal (ITC). In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are made to fit the size and shape of the ear canal. Completely-in-canal (CIC) aids are almost invisible because they are inside the ear canal. They are best used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate hearing loss. But it might be challenging to remove and change them due to their small size. Also, ear wax and drainage might harm these canal aids.
- Other body aids: Body aids are often reserved for severe cases of hearing loss or when other hearing aid treatment options are not suitable. These devices are secured to the wearer’s belt or pocket and then connected to the ear via a cable.
- Over the counter (OTC): In October 2022, the FDA issued recommendations for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who use self-fitting hearing aids. These devices don’t require a doctor’s exam and require professional advice to assess the condition. These devices enable smartphone or tablet users to personalize their listening environments.
The degree and kind of hearing loss dictate the best hearing aid to use. People who have trouble hearing in one or both ears may consider getting a pair of hearing aids. This can help them interpret speech better and pinpoint where sounds are coming from by sending a more balanced signal to their brain. To choose the best hearing aid for your individual requirements and way of life, it’s best to see an audiologist.
But for people with severe hearing loss, hearing aids aren’t always enough help. In that case, a cochlear implant might be a great device, especially for people who have a middle ear and ear drum that do not cause any trouble hearing.
Instead of amplifying sound like traditional hearing aids do, a cochlear implant sends sound impulses directly to the auditory nerve, avoiding damaged parts of the ear via a microprocessor that is put beneath the skin behind the ear and a thin electrode that is inserted into the cochlea. In addition to generally improving speech understanding, the most recent versions also include cutting-edge technologies.
They are an extremely popular and most-used hearing device; as per the World Health Organization (WHO), 219,000 individuals throughout the globe use one. Recent January 2024 research found that using these hearing aids was associated with a 24 percent reduction in the risk of premature mortality among individuals with hearing loss.
Cochlear implants come in various sizes, weights, and features, with some models featuring a unified external unit secured to the head without ear components. Adults and adolescents can use identical implants due to consistent internal ear size, allowing for consistent use across the lifespan.
Implantation Process: These hearing devices are placed into the ear via a surgical method as an outpatient procedure. A small cut is made behind the ear to place an internal processor into the cochlea during the surgery, which is done under general anesthesia. The doctor then makes a hole in the inner ear so that wires can be put into the cochlea. The process takes around two hours. Following the surgical procedure, the audiologist will activate the electrical stimulation of the external components of the cochlear implant after 3–4 weeks. An audiologist guides patients in selecting the most suitable implant for their requirements prior to surgery.
No age limit applies to hearing aids and anybody can use it.
Assistive Listening Devices
Technologies that enhance the volume of sound from various personal electronic devices, such as televisions and cell phones, are called assistive listening devices (ALDs). These aids greatly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from hearing loss by amplifying background noise and enhancing the fidelity of speech and other audio signals. Depending on the kind and degree of the person’s hearing loss, ALDs can be used alone or in combination with hearing aids.
In addition to traditional hearing aids, other assistive listening devices, like amplified phones, FM systems, and alerting devices, use light or vibration. These devices are designed to help in specific situations, like hearing conversations in noisy environments or being aware of household alerts (e.g., doorbells, smoke alarms).
3. Surgical Options
Surgical options may be considered for more severe cases. Some of them are mentioned below.
In the cases when the treatment fails to reduce the hearing loss or if the loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive types, an audiologist will explore alternative solutions, including the use of hearing aids or the surgical implantation of a bone-anchored hearing system—an approach that differs from that of a cochlear implant. Bone anchored hearing systems surgically fixes a hearing aid is over an implant into the bone behind the ear as part of the system. Vibrations are transmitted to the inner ear via the bone These devices are appropriate for those who have conductive hearing loss, such as adults with single-sided deafness and infants with outer or middle ear malformations.
Anamoly of the bones and other structures can such as otosclerosis (stiffening of the ear bones) or tympanic membrane perforation can also be fixed surgically. Procedures like stapedectomy (to replace the stapes bone) or tympanoplasty (repairing the eardrum) can significantly improve hearing.
4. Therapies and Rehabilitation
Individuals with hearing loss can choose from a variety of therapy and rehabilitation programs designed to address their unique requirements and the extent of the condition they have. There are many kinds of therpaies that have proven to be beneficial such as
Prevention and Care
Certain types of hearing loss are unavoidable. For example, many people lose their hearing as they age. But you can still take steps to prevent further hearing loss if you already have it by following some basic tips, which are:
1. Care for Ear Hygiene
Some basic ear hygiene tips are:
- Keep your hands out of your ears all the time. Things like keys, cotton swabs, paperclips, bobby pins, and anything else you could use to clean or scrape your ears fall into this category.
- Earwax is the ear’s natural method of self-cleansing. If a buildup of earwax blocks your ability to hear, consult a medical professional so that it can be removed. Do not attempt to remove it manually.
- For ear piercings, clean earrings and earlobes with rubbing alcohol.
- Applying sunscreen before going outdoors in sunny weather is a must for protecting your ears from the sun.
- In cases of ear infections, always get them checked by a doctor and never self-medicate.
2. Know Your Family History
Even though it won’t stop hearing loss from happening, knowing your family history might help you determine if you’re more likely to have it. So better to be aware of it and start taking precautions.
3. Use a Protective Hearing Gear
To preserve your hearing, it is recommended that you minimize contact with loud noises. That includes one-time, very loud events and continuous, loud noises throughout your life. Protect your hearing with glycerin-filled earmuffs or plastic earplugs when engaging in noisy activities such as attending concerts, operating motorcycles or snowmobiles, or operating noisy machinery. These earplugs are available at most drugstores and music supply shops.
4. Lower the Voice of Devices
It is recommended that you listen to personal sound systems at a level that is pleasant for you. Turn down the volume on your radio, TV, and music; a person speaking to you from one meter away should be audible. And if you use headphones and the person next to you can hear it, it’s probably too loud. Even while in a car, the best strategy is to lower the volume, as the danger of harm to the ear’s hair cells increases while listening to music at high volumes in a small, enclosed area.
5. Quit Smoking and Alcohol
Cigarette smoke, whether inhaled directly, secondhand, or even during pregnancy, has been shown undoubtedly to affect an individual’s auditory health negatively. Extreme alcohol consumption can similarly produce a noxious environment within the ear. Although there is a shortage of research on the subject, some evidence suggests that vaping may cause abrupt hearing loss.
6. Follow the 60:60 Rule.
Many pieces of research recommend listening to music for a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes per day at no more than 60% of the maximal volume. Numerous Bluetooth-enabled streaming devices include an intelligent volume function that enables users to control sound levels.
7. Get a Hearing Test
They are not as common as they should be, but having a hearing test during your upcoming yearly physical examination is an integral component of your routine evaluation. By comparing the next findings to the baseline established by a hearing test, an audiologist can monitor the progression of hearing loss.
8. Beware of Certain Medications
Hearing loss has been associated with hundreds of prescription and OTC medications. From common OTC pain relievers like aspirin and NSAIDs to more serious prescriptions like chemotherapy and intravenous antibiotics, there is a wide spectrum of ototoxic substances. You might be able to lessen your chances of experiencing hearing loss due to drugs by switching to another medication.
But one should remember that these medications may lead to adverse effects like hearing loss, and the risk of permanent hearing loss is not necessarily present.
9. Follow Doctor’s Advice
Last bu not the least, if you have heart disease, diabetes, or other circulatory issues, stick to your physician’s dietary and exercise recommendations. The heath of the hair cells in the inner ear is reliant on adequate blood circulation. Regular exercise and weight management can contribute to improved hearing health.
It’s true that hearing loss can make life very difficult, but with the right care and adjustments, people can still live full lives. Talking to medical professionals to get the right evaluation and care is important.
A key part in preventing more hearing loss is stressing the need of prevention, frequent hearing exams, and ear care. At the end of the day, people who are hard of hearing may still enjoy full and active lives with the correct assistance and Prime with Time!