Hearing loss affects about 20 percent of Americans and treatment options for the impairment relies heavily on its cause. The first step to correcting hearing loss begins with a visit to an otologist, also known as an ear, nose and throat doctor. Your doctor will determine the cause for the impairment and then send you to an audiologist to pinpoint the severity of the loss. The severity and cause will affect the treatment options available for your case.
Many causes of hearing loss can be repaired with surgical intervention. Usually assisted with surgery, conductive hearing loss is problems with the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear structures. This common type of hearing impairment can be caused by congenital absence of the ear canal or failure of the ear canal to be open at birth. Congenital absence, malformation, or dysfunction of the middle ear structures are also commonly associated with conductive hearing loss.
Surgical intervention may include the implantation of an electronic medical device known as a cochlear device. These devices bypass the normal hearing process and do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear. Those suffering from chronic ear infections, chronic middle fluid, or head trauma may have pressure equalizing tubes implanted. Abrupt changes in air pressure can cause inner ear fluid compartment rupture or leakage, but surgical intervention is not always successful in reducing those symptoms. Likewise, benign tumors are rarely reversed with surgical removal or irradiation and the use of hearing aids is usually recommended in those cases.
Treatment in a medical setting is often most appropriate for sensorineural hearing loss. Causes can include acoustic trauma, a sudden viral infection, or an autoimmune inner ear disease in which the body’s immune system misdirects its defenses against the inner ear structures to cause damage. Meniere’s Disease usually affects one ear with fluctuating, progressive or low-frequency hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is generally treated medically with corticosteroids, sometimes on a long-term basis. Other drug therapies and medical management can be used to treat diseases in the central nervous system or other specific diseases that cause hearing loss. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed to reduce cochlea hair cell swelling and inflammation to improve healing following traumatic injury. The Menniett Device is a small air pump that delivers slow puffs of air against the eardrum and used to treat the effects of Meniere’s Disease, but this device is not medically proven or FDA approved.
No two cases of hearing loss are alike and it takes expert care to ensure that patients are receiving the most helpful and appropriate assistance for their impairment. One cause of hearing loss, otosclerosis, is a growth around a small bone in the middle ear that prevents it from vibrating when stimulated by sound. Unfortunately, more tests must be taken and other symptoms explored because it may be conductive or sensorineural in nature. Be sure you and your doctor have completely reviewed your case before choosing a treatment method.