Can My Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

From the WebMD Archives

Losing your hearing can be an inconvenience -- sometimes a major one that makes you worry.

While some forms of hearing loss aren’t reversible, many are. But how does it stack up?

Earwax Buildup: Reversible

Earwax helps clean and protect the ears. Normally, your ears will clear it out on their own. If you use cotton swabs to clean them, you may be pushing the wax in deeper. This can make it gather and get stuck. That’ll make it hard for you to hear.

It’s not hard to treat that buildup and get your hearing back. Home treatments work well in most cases. Put a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil in the ear to help wax work its way out. You can also buy drops at the drug store that help soften ear wax.

See a doctor if home treatments don’t work or if you have diabetes. He can remove the wax safely with medical tools. Or he might flush it out with water or saline.

Ear Infections: Reversible

If you have one, you may notice mild hearing loss, as if you were wearing ear plugs. An infection usually happens when fluid gets stuck in your middle ear. That’s because the fluid makes it easier for bacteria to grow.

Some ear infections get better all on their own. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help treat it. Viruses can also cause hearing loss.

If you or someone you know gets these infections often, ear tubes -- small cylinders that keep the middle ear open -- can help treat them, especially in children.

Sudden Hearing Loss: Usually Reversible

This happens when you lose all or part of your hearing all at once or over several days. About half of people with the condition regain their hearing on their own. It usually gets better in a week or two.

It can be treated with corticosteroid pills or shots.

Continued

Age-Related Hearing Loss: Not Reversible

It’s common for people to lose hearing gradually as they age. Because it happens slowly, you might not notice a difference at first. You may first pick up on it if you have trouble hearing someone on the phone or if you have to ask people to repeat what they say.

Most of the time it's caused by natural changes to the inner ear as you get older. A lifetime of listening to loud noises, like playing music through headphones, can also cause hearing trouble.

Once noise damages the hairs in the ear that help you hear, they don’t grow back. But there are ways to work around age-related hearing loss, like hearing aids.

Talk With Your Doctor to Improve Your Hearing

She may be able to reverse the problem or keep it from getting worse.

She may refer you to a specialist, such as:

  • An audiologist, who specializes in hearing loss treatment and testing
  • An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor, also called an otorhinolaryngologist
  • A hearing aid expert who does tests and fits the devices
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brandon Isaacson, MD on June 11, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health: “Age-Related Hearing Loss.”

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health: “Hearing Loss.”

The University of California San Francisco Medical Center: “Hearing Loss Treatment.”

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: “Earwax and Care.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Cerumen Impaction.”

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: “Ear Infection and Hearing Loss.”

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: “Ear Tubes.”

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health: “Sudden Deafness.”

Cohen, B. Trends in Hearing, published online July 22, 2014.

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Ear Infections.”

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health: “Sudden Deafness.”

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health: “Hearing Loss: Symptoms and Diagnosis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hearing Loss: Symptoms.”

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