Can Hearing Loss Be Restored?
Hearing loss is something that affects more than 30 million Americans and can have a profound effect on quality of life. When you can’t hear well, it can make simple things, such as having a conversation with a friend, much more challenging.
For this reason, many people wonder whether they can reverse their hearing loss. The answer to that depends on the cause.
Can You Reverse Hearing Loss?
With current technology, it is not possible to reverse most age-related forms of hearing loss, though it can be effectively managed. Drugs do not exist that allow the body to restore the tissues in the ear to their youthful form. However, there are other reasons for hearing loss that you can reverse. For example, if hearing loss is the result of impacted earwax, then hearing loss reversal simply involves removing the obstruction.
You can also reverse hearing loss by switching medications. Some medicines – including antibiotics – can make your hearing worse. Coming off them and then allowing the body to recover can result in hearing improvements over time.
There are also physical issues that might be causing the hearing loss. For example, many people experience hearing loss following traumatic injuries. Then, during recovery, their hearing returns.
Can You Restore Hearing Loss?
The question of whether you can restore hearing loss is different from whether you can reverse it. Reversing hearing loss involves reversing the damage to the body that is causing it – and that’s not possible in the majority of cases, given current medical technology.
Restoring hearing loss, on the other hand, simply means allowing the person to hear again just like they could before. And that’s as simple as visiting your audiologist and getting a set of hearing aids.
Do Drugs Fix Hearing Loss?
As previously mentioned, there are currently no drugs that reverse hearing loss. However, in the future, doctors could potentially use cell editing technologies and tissue rejuvenation therapies to restore the machinery of the inner ear.
In fact, there are already potential therapies in the pipeline. One injectable drug, called FX-322, attempts to regrow the tiny hair-like fibers that line the cochlear. These are damaged in many people with sensorineural hearing loss, preventing them from picking up sound vibrations and transmitting information to the brain. The hope is that this new drug will encourage the growth of new cells, potentially reversing hearing loss in some patients.
CRISPR-Cas-9 and other gene editing technologies may also be able to change the way cells in the ear construct proteins, allowing them to function better. However, unlike FX-322 which is already in clinical trials, these are still a long way off.
Sometimes, people who experience rapid-onset hearing loss receive steroids taken directly into the ear. These help to treat inflammation and, in some cases, can fully restore lost hearing. The reason they work so well is because they are targeting another condition in the body that is causing the hearing loss, not damage to the ear itself.
Can Non-Pharmaceutical Remedies Reverse Hearing Loss?
Non-pharmaceutical medicine is gaining popularity throughout the world as people seek alternatives to conventional drugs. But are they effective?
The research seems to indicate not. Essential oils and products, such as CBD, primarily seem to relax patients – particularly those with tinnitus. However, they do not reverse the underlying damage that causes hearing loss so, by themselves, they cannot restore hearing.
In some cases, diet and lifestyle interventions may be able to help mitigate hearing loss or prevent it from getting worse. For example, patients with diabetes-induced hearing loss could benefit from eating exclusively whole plant foods. Once blood sugar levels come down, it may lead to improvements in hearing long-term. However, even with the best diet and lifestyle regimen, it is unlikely that these will reverse most forms of hearing loss.
Can You Restore Hearing Loss with Surgery?
Surgical methods are also available to restore hearing loss and may help some patients. For example, cochlear implants are small devices that take information from the middle ear and then translate that into signals that the brain can then interpret, restoring hearing in people with extremely damaged cochlear.
There is also a surgical intervention called a bone-anchored hearing system. Surgeons insert these devices into the skull and then use vibrational technology to communicate sound information to the conductive bones in the inner ear. This option is most popular for patients with malformed outer ears.
If you would like to learn more about hearing loss and the potential solutions, please contact Audiology Associates at 573-332-7000.