Can Hearing Loss be Reversed?

In this article, we will discuss the most important things for you to know about hearing loss and how and when hearing loss can be reversed.

Hearing loss can be an incredibly frustrating condition to deal with. As you begin to lose your hearing, you will have difficulty engaging in fruitful conversations with others, enjoying your favorite albums or movies, and may increase your risk of driving accidents (and other types of accidents). Loss of hearing can also contribute to various mental health conditions, such as depression

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) claims that “approximately 15 percent of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.”

At Sound Relief Hearing Center, one of the most common questions new patients have is “Can hearing loss be reversed?” 

The answer to this question will depend on the type of hearing loss you have. While some cases of hearing loss can be immediately improved, others will require long-term treatment and some will be completely irreversible (in which case, hearing aids or cochlear implants will likely be recommended). In order for an audiologist to help, they will need to identify the underlying cause of your hearing loss, identify the specific type of hearing loss you are experiencing, and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

What are the different causes of hearing loss?

Hearing loss affects a large portion of the population and, naturally, there are many different identified causes. The most common cause of hearing loss is age. Every 20 years a person ages, they will lose about 10 percent of their ability to hear. However, for some people, age-related hearing loss occurs at an even faster rate. While age-related hearing loss cannot be “reversed”, hearing aids can be used to improve your overall hearing. 

Other possible causes of hearing loss include hearing loss caused by diseases, exposure to loud noises, injury, and ototoxic medications. For many people, there are multiple factors contributing to their hearing loss, which can make the diagnosis process more difficult. Whether these types of hearing loss can be reversed will depend on the type of hearing loss you are experiencing and the intensity of the underlying cause.

What is the difference between sensorineural and conductive hearing loss?

Generally, sustained hearing loss can be classified in one of three given categories:

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss
  • Conductive Hearing Loss
  • Mixed Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and is triggered by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. These components of the ear are both delicate and complex, which make treatment difficult. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent and can be triggered by most of the underlying causes mentioned above. This includes aging, loud noises, and diseases. Genetics can also contribute to sensorineural hearing issues.

Conductive hearing loss is caused by issues in either the middle ear or the outer ear. Common types of conductive hearing loss include blockage (such as earwax, puss, or other natural substances), bone abnormalities, and damage to the eardrum. The middle and outer ears are less complex than the inner ear and are also easier to access. Conductive hearing loss has a much greater probability of being reversed.

The third type of hearing loss is mixed hearing loss, which means that both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are affecting your ability to hear.

What is the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss?

Tinnitus is a condition defined as the “ringing in the ears, the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness.” Tinnitus is not always connected to hearing loss but is sometimes the first sign. Many cases of tinnitus are often classified as “sensorineural”, meaning they occur as the result of hearing loss due to the damage to the cochlea or cochlear nerves. Many individuals living with tinnitus will also have a much more difficult time hearing (mostly because there are additional, distracting noises present.) Consider taking our tinnitus impact survey today to determine the severity of your tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a symptom, rather than a specific disease, meaning that tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, but is simply correlated with hearing loss. However, because there is so much overlap between tinnitus and other hearing problems, these conditions will often be treated together.

When, if ever, can hearing loss be reversed?

As suggested, reversing conductive hearing loss is significantly easier than reversing sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated with non-invasive procedures such as ear cleaning or a simple removal of whatever object is found in the middle or outer ear. Even in cases where a more intensive procedure will be recommended, conductive hearing loss is considered—by far—the least permanent type of hearing loss. 

Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is much more difficult to reverse. Some types of sensorineural loss will be unavoidably permanent. There are, however, still quite a few reasonable treatment options available. Hearing aids are non-invasive and can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of the individual patient. In other situations, cochlear implants may be the preferred option. 

For some, sound therapy treatments might also be helpful. Sound therapy will be considered especially valuable for individuals who are experiencing tinnitus in addition to hearing loss and need a method for distracting from or mixing the ringing in their ears. Furthermore, while the irreversible nature of sensorineural hearing loss can be incredibly frustrating, things such as stem cell research, viral therapy, and gene therapy are all helping the hearing community make dramatic progress with each passing year. There are plenty of reasons for individuals with hearing troubles to be optimistic about hearing loss reversal.

Conclusion – Can Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

While, unfortunately, not all types of hearing loss can be reversed, there are still many different treatment options available. After meeting with an audiologist at your local hearing center, you will be able to access a personalized treatment plan that will likely improve your hearing. 

Depending on your current situation, hearing aids, ear cleaning, and sound therapy can all be potential solutions for relief. If you are living with hearing loss, it’s important to seek professional help immediately. Schedule an appointment with the experts at Sound Relief Hearing Center. Meet with an audiologist and obtain a personalized treatment plan specific to your needs. For more information call the Sound Relief office today at (720) 344-7600.

At Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center, we provide hope and help to those living with tinnitus and other hearing health issues. Our patients are at the center of everything we do, and we strive to guide them to overcome their challenges by delivering innovative and compassionate healthcare.

Dr. Julie Prutsman, owner of this family-owned practice, has expanded to 9 locations across Colorado and Arizona. In 2012, she founded Sound Relief in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado and continues to foster their mission through mentorship of the brightest minds in the field of Audiology.