It’s a safe bet that you know someone – or know someone who knows someone – who suffers from hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss affects nearly 50 million people in the United States alone and another 3 million in Canada, which is about 15% of the population. However, the degree of hearing loss spans a spectrum from easily treatable to irreversible. So how do you know if your hearing loss is permanent – and what can you do to get it back?
Signs of permanent hearing loss
First, it’s important to note the cases where hearing loss typically proves permanent. Age-related hearing loss is almost always considered irreversible. Over time, the tiny hair cells in your ears that help you hear can become damaged and there is no way to repair them. Prolonged exposure to loud noises and some medical conditions can harm these tiny cells, as well. If your hearing loss does prove to be irreversible, your best bet is to see a hearing specialist who can evaluate you for the right pair of hearing aids.
Do I have temporary hearing loss?
In the case of reversible or treatable hearing loss, there are several ways you can get your hearing back. Temporary hearing loss, for example, typically doesn’t require any treatment besides just taking it easy on your ears for a while and giving them time to rest. If you lost your hearing to loud noise – think about being too close to fireworks when they went off or going to a gun range without wearing the proper ear protection – chances are that this condition is temporary, but you should always get sudden or extreme hearing loss checked out as soon as possible.
Treatments to restore hearing
Other types of reversible hearing loss require some kind of treatment from a hearing specialist in order to get your hearing back. Here are a few of the causes of reversible hearing loss and the treatments you can undertake to get your hearing back:
- Over-the-counter medication: Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve can all cause hearing loss if taken over a long period of time. It’s important to speak to your general practitioner about the reasons you’re taking these over-the-counter medicines since chronic use (at least twice a week) can lead to hearing loss. You should speak to your doctor to find out if you can replace these medicines with an alternative to protect your hearing and avoid other side effects.
- Ear infections and sinus problems: A bad cold, sinus infection, or bronchitis can easily infect your ears and cause trouble with your hearing. Most of the time, these illnesses are caused by a virus instead of a bacterial infection, so your best remedy is to just take it easy and let the sickness run its course. If the illness is caused by bacteria, you’ll need antibiotics to treat it. Either way, it’s a good idea to go see your doctor if you come down with something so you can start feeling better – and start hearing better – faster.
- Your diet: Some hearing problems, such as tinnitus, may be affected by diet, especially if your tinnitus is related to high blood pressure.
- Earwax Buildup: One common misconception about ear care is that using a cotton swab is good for your ears, when in fact it will often just push wax deeper and deeper into your ear canal where it becomes impacted. Too much earwax buildup can lead to hearing loss, and a hearing specialist will have to clear out your ears in order for you to hear better.
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, your next move should be to get a hearing test. Hearing tests will help determine your best treatment.