The human body is a wonderful, beautiful, confusing, confounding piece of work, isn’t it? The human body generally has no problem mending cuts, scrapes, or broken bones (I mean, sure, it takes a while, but your body can literally repair the giant bones in your arms and legs with little more than some time and a splint).
But when it comes to repairing the tiny little hairs in your ear, you’re out of luck. At least, so far.
It doesn’t seem exactly fair when you can recover from significant bone injuries but you have problems repairing tiny hairs in your ear. What’s going on there? (Other than your body being a bit fickle, that is.)
When is hearing loss permanent?
So, let’s get right down to it. You’re sitting in your hearing specialist’s office and you’re absorbing the news: you have hearing loss. So the first question you ask is whether your hearing will ever come back. And the answer is… it depends.
Dramatically speaking, it’s a little anticlimactic.
But it’s also the truth. There are two basic types of hearing loss:
- Hearing loss caused by an obstruction: When there’s something obstructing your ear canal, you can exhibit all the signs of hearing loss. This obstruction can be caused by a wide variety of things, from the gross (ear wax) to the downright scary (tumors). The good news is that once the obstruction is removed, your hearing often returns to normal.
- Hearing loss caused by damage: But there’s another–more common–type of hearing loss. Known medically as sensorineural hearing loss, this type of hearing loss is effectively permanent. Here’s what happens: there are tiny hairs in your ear that vibrate when hit with moving air (sound waves). Your brain is good at turning these vibrations into the sounds you hear. But loud noises can cause damage to the hairs and, over time, diminish your hearing to the point where you need treatment.
So the bottom line is this: there’s one type of hearing loss you can recover from, and you may need to get tested to see which one you have.
Hearing loss treatment
So currently there’s no “cure” for sensorineural hearing loss (though scientists are working on that). But that’s not to say you can’t find treatment for your hearing loss. In fact, getting the right treatment for your hearing loss may help you:
- Preserve and protect the hearing you have left.
- Prevent cognitive decline.
- Stay engaged socially, keeping isolation at bay.
- Cope successfully with any of the symptoms of hearing loss you may be experiencing.
- Ensure your overall quality of life is unaffected or remains high.
This treatment can take many forms, and it’ll usually depend on how severe your hearing loss is. One of the most common treatments is pretty simple: hearing aids.
Why are hearing aids a good treatment for hearing loss?
Hearing aids can help you get back to the people and things you love. They can help you hear the conversation, the phone, your television, or even just the birds in the park. Hearing aids can also take some of the pressure off of your brain because you will no longer be straining to hear.
The best protection is prevention
Whether you have hearing loss now or not, you should protect your hearing from loud noises and other things that can harm your hearing (like ototoxic drugs). Hearing well is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Regular hearing care, such as annual hearing tests, are just another form of self-care.