Treating hearing loss depends on the cause. There's no specific cure or treatment for presbyacusis, and many people who suffer from it fail to seek help because they either feel little can be done or they are unwilling to accept they have a problem. Treatment is focused on improving your everyday function.
The following may be helpful:
- Hearing aids
- Telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices
- Sign language (for those with severe hearing loss)
- Speech reading (such as lip reading and using visual cues to aid communication)
A cochlear implant may be recommended for certain people with very severe hearing loss. Surgery is done to place the implant. The implant makes sounds seem louder, but does not restore normal hearing.
Certain other forms of hearing loss may be treated medically or surgically:
- Otosclerosis. For mild cases, a hearing aid is usually the first option. In severe cases, one of the small bones is surgically replaced with a tiny prosthesis.
- Acoustic neuroma. Treatment includes surgery or highly focused radiation therapy.
- Meniere's disease. There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to relieve pressure in the ears to reduce symptoms. Some people improve by limiting intake of salt, caffeine or alcohol or quitting smoking. Medications to reduce fluid retention in the ear may help. In some cases, surgery may be considered.
- Traumatic hearing loss. A damaged eardrum can sometimes be repaired surgically.
- Drug-induced hearing loss. Stopping the problem medication may reverse hearing loss or prevent it from getting worse.
- Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. When the cause is unknown, this condition is usually treated with steroids.
- Other. A dense plug of earwax can be dissolved or gently removed by your doctor. Antibiotics can treat hearing loss caused by ear infections.
Diet and Nutrition
Nutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as causes or contributing factors in many diseases, and they are also overlooked factors in hearing loss. Studies done all over the world by completely different teams of researchers using completely different nutritional supplements and using completely different methods of studying the problem have all come to the same conclusion- hearing loss can be prevented and even improved with nutritional supplementation.
If you eat two servings of fish, you lower the risk of experiencing hearing loss by 42% if you're 50-years-old or older. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, a well-studied nutrient that delivers a bunch of health benefits including a reduction in hearing loss. The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also pointed out supplements of omega-3 (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) lowered the risk of hearing loss by 14% - a number significantly large enough to add these supplements to your daily diet. Omega-3 supplements come in the form of fish oil capsules as well as pure fish oil.
"Dietary intervention with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could prevent or delay the development of age-related hearing loss," researchers, lead by Paul Mitchell, report.
Some people develop hearing loss suddenly, usually in one ear. This condition is called “unilateral idiopathic sudden hearing loss.” Its cause is unknown, but problems with circulation may play a role in some cases. The herb ginkgo biloba is thought to increase circulation, and for that reason it has been tried as a treatment for this condition.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 106 participants with a carefully defined form of sudden hearing loss were given either a full dose of ginkgo extract (120 mg twice daily) or a low dose of the herb (12 mg twice daily). The lower dose was chosen in the belief that it couldn’t possibly offer any benefit, and would therefore serve as placebo. However, researchers were surprised to find that most participants in each group recovered by the end of the 8-week trial. There are two possibilities to explain this: low-dose ginkgo is effective, or many people with sudden hearing loss recover on their own anyway.
Because both groups improved to such a great extent, the overall results of the trial did not prove ginkgo effective. An exploratory look at the data provided some tantalizing hints that high-dose ginkgo may have helped ensure full recovery, but for statistical reasons these tantalizing hints can’t be taken as proof.
Another double-blind study compared ginkgo to pentoxifylline, a circulation-enhancing drug used in Germany for the treatment of sudden hearing loss. The results indicate that ginkgo was at least as effective as the medication.
Some of the most interesting studies come from Vitamin D Research. Vitamin D is well known to be responsible for the calcium absorption required for strong bones. The most well known problem associated with lack of vitamin D is rickets, a softening of the bones in children leading to bowed legs. But less well-known is a similar condition in adults called osteopenia where the bones can become porous and demineralized. When vitamin D deficiency causes osteopenia in the tiny bones of the ears, this can lead to hearing loss and even deafness. Strikingly, correcting the vitamin D deficiency often corrects the hearing loss and even the deafness in these specific cases.
A nutrient with a wider application in hearing loss is magnesium. We are fortunate that hearing loss is an issue in governmental applications such as the Air Force, because this has given us a rich source of studies done in order to find practical ways to prevent the hearing loss associated with continual noise.
And magnesium has been shown to do this well. Many studies have been done where people subjected to noise were protected from noise-related hearing loss when they were pre treated with magnesium. Magnesium given after noise exposure worked to correct that hearing loss as well. Industrialized countries have an "epidemic of magnesium deficiency", according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of 'The Magnesium Miracle'. Since magnesium is inexpensive and readily available, this one nutrient could have wide uses in high noise settings and even in nursing homes where the vast majority of residents suffer from hearing loss as well as magnesium deficiency.
Free Radical Scavengers
Denoted as `Free Radical Scavengers`, Vitamin C , Lipoic Acid, Vitamin E and glutathione have all been used to prevent and treat hearing loss. Poor hearing was significantly improved in as short a time as 8 weeks. Interestingly enough, several of these studies were done using patients that had exhausted all other treatments for their condition without improvement, yet there was significant improvements in hearing using free radical scavenger therapy.
Vitamin B-12, folic acid and zinc have all been shown to improve hearing in different studies, with zinc being singled out by Dr. George E. Shambaugh Jr., Founder of the Shambaugh Hearing and Allergy Center in Hinsdale, Illinois: "We believe zinc deficiency is one causation of presbycusis [hearing loss]; by recognizing and correcting it, a progressive hearing loss can be arrested". One study even showed that Homocysteine Levels in the blood, a good indicator of B vitamin status, is inversely correlated with hearing loss. This means that the higher the Homocysteine levels, indicating worsening B vitamin deficiency, the worse the hearing loss.
- Hearing loss can result in both physical (not hearing a fire alarm) and psychological (social isolation) problems.
- The hearing loss may lead to deafness.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Hearing loss should be evaluated as soon as possible to rule out potentially reversible causes such as too much wax in the ear or medication side effects. It is also helpful to have a baselines hearing test so your doctor can note any changes that may occur in the future.
Contact your health care provider immediately if you have a sudden change in your hearing or hearing loss with other symptoms such as headache, vision changes, or dizziness.
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