Is Hearing Loss Truly Forever?
The short and simple answer to the above question is usually “yes.” Unlike minor cuts and bruises, our body has still not developed the capacity to regenerate hearing. Modern researchers are working on novel hearing treatments that aim to restore natural hearing in the future, but such treatment methods are still in their infancy stage.
The more detailed answer to the question mentioned at the beginning is “it depends.” If you have sensorineural hearing loss which has damaged your delicate hair follicles within the inner ear, you may have permanent hearing damage. However, if you have conductive hearing loss which is caused by too much earwax or an ear infection, you may have hope. In such cases, it can actually be possible to restore your hearing by cleaning out your ears to get rid of the earwax or treating the ear infection using antibiotics.
People who have abnormal growths such as tumors may also experience conductive hearing loss. In these cases too, the tumor may be surgically removable, which can restore hearing.
Unfortunately, approximately 90% of all hearing loss is sensorineural in nature. This means that there is lasting damage that has occurred to the tiny hair follicles within the inner ears, and since these hair follicles do not regenerate, permanent hearing loss may ensue. This type of hearing loss usually occurs due to old age, genetic predisposition, or prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of noise (above 85dB). Those with sensorineural hearing loss often end up having permanent hearing loss that is irreversible.
There is currently no known cure to restore human hearing that occurs due to sensorineural hearing loss. It can however, be treated using cochlear implants or more popularly, hearing aids. The purpose of these devices is to retain the remainder of your hearing and effectively deal with hearing loss symptoms to help you lead a more active, connected, and fulfilling life. Using hearing aids has also been shown by research to diminish the cognitive decline that usually results from hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss can happen to anyone at any point in their lifetime. This is why it is imperative that you practice safe listening habits to prevent hearing loss in the first place. Always wear earplugs or ear muffs before exposing yourself to loud noises at home or work. Lower the volume on your personal audio and video devices. Limit listening to music for a maximum of 60 minutes at a stretch at no more than 60% of the maximum available volume. Prevention in this case, is definitely your best option since there is no cure for permanent hearing loss.