Hearing Loss Recovery
What are the Prospects of a Recovery from Hearing Loss?There are certainly some instances in which, without any intervention, a spontaneous recovery from hearing loss is a fairly common occurrence, and still others in which a suitable surgical repair or appropriate medication may be able to achieve an equally favourable outcome. In practice, though, it is the nature and the extent of the deafness that will determine the likelihood that the condition can be reversed.
In order to understand this concept more fully, it will be helpful to take a look at some of the possible causes of the type of hearing loss from which recovery is not only possible, but even quite common. A simple ear infection, one of the most common reasons for parents to consult a paediatrician or GP during the first two years or so of their children’s lives, can often lead to a temporary form of deafness.
While in young children the only signs of a possible problem may be tears, some reddening of the affected ear, and a tendency to play with it, adults complain of muffled sounds, often accompanied by tinnitus. Sometimes, the immune system will manage to overcome the infection unassisted, but in all cases, it is standard practice to administer a suitable antibiotic in order to reduce inflammation and to speed up the process of hearing loss recovery. Failure to do so, carries the risk of recurrent infections and, in time, a chronic condition that increases the chance of irreversible deafness.
It is, however, not only pathogenic bacteria and viruses that have the ability to cause auditory impairment. In practice, the more common culprit today tends to be noise rather than infection. Acoustic shock is something that almost everyone has experienced or will experience at some time or another, and to varying degrees. Exposure to a sufficiently loud noise, such as a gunshot or an explosion, can actually result in immediate hearing loss from which recovery may or may not be possible. The actual outcome will depend upon a number of factors.
A single exposure to a moderately loud noise, perhaps when standing too close to a firework, will invariably result in some auditory impairment, which may also be accompanied by tinnitus. Typically, both symptoms will gradually fade until, after a day or so, the subject is once again able to hear normally and will exhibit no evidence of permanent damage. Step up the noise to the level of a major explosion and the effect can be a ruptured eardrum. This will give rise to a rather more profound hearing loss from which, nevertheless, recovery is still often possible, either as the result of the eardrum healing itself or, if necessary, with the aid of surgical intervention.
As mentioned earlier, noise is now the most common cause of auditory insufficiency. Prolonged and repeated exposure to excessive levels of noise acts to damage or destroy the irreplaceable hair cells that line the cochlea. These are responsible for converting movements of the cochlear fluid into the nerve impulses that are subsequently interpreted by the brain as specific sounds. Commonly affecting those who work unprotected in noisy environments, military personnel, and young people who spend hours listening to music at full volume through earbuds, recovery from noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL is currently not possible. Instead, it must be managed with the use of a hearing aid or, in more extreme cases, a cochlear implant.
Modern aids, however, have evolved almost beyond recognition. They are compact and powerful. They have prolonged battery life and deliver exceptional clarity of speech, free of background noise and electrical interference, while some models allow their wearers to interact directly with many of the digital devices once only accessible by hearing individuals. In the interim, research into the use of gene therapy to stimulate the re-growth of the sensory hair cells is showing promise, offering hope for those with sensorineural hearing loss that recovery may, at some future date, be possible.
Until this dream becomes reality, however, it should be understood that deafness is a progressive condition that benefits from early detection and management. A visit to an Ear Institute clinic could be life-changing. Contact us to find out more.