Our society is obsessed with quick fixes to common problems. Nowhere is this more evident than in the multi-billion dollar diet and weight loss industry. Here, marketers compete for your attention by offering the latest pills, potions and promises for reducing body fat, losing weight and shrinking your body dimensions enough to fit into the clothes you're wishfully keeping in your closet.
Hearing loss plagues millions of Americans, and it is one of the most frustrating health conditions with impacts that go well beyond communication difficulties. Maybe that's why we get so many questions about whether or not there is a way to quickly and easily restore hearing levels to normal, especially for common sensorineural hearing loss. The short answer to this question is "not really." Unfortunately, some people with hearing loss cling to the hope that some of these so-called remedies will provide immediate relief.
Surgery for hearing loss
While any operation can cause anxiety, some people with hearing loss would be willing to go under the knife if they knew their hearing could be restored to normal.
The most common surgeries performed on the ears are:
- Insertion of middle ear tubes - Hardly a surgery, this frequently-performed, outpatient procedure can be done right in your ENT's (otolaryngologist) office. Middle ear, or pressure equalization (PE) tubes, are used to alleviate pressure buildup behind the eardrum in cases of middle ear infection or fluid that cannot drain through the Eustacian tubes. Children are the most common candidates for PE tubes because their not-yet-developed ear anatomy makes ear infections more prevalent than in adults. Middle ear infections and fluid buildup usually cause some temporary conductive hearing loss that will improve post-surgery. However, for the majority of adults whose hearing losses are sensorineural, this surgery is not appropriate and would have no value.
- Cochlear implants - A cochlear implant is a surgery for adults and, more commonly, children who have no, or very little, residual hearing. It works by bypassing a severely damaged cochlea to send electrical impulses to the hearing nerves that can be translated by the brain as meaningful sound. If you have significant hearing loss, you may wonder if you can just skip hearing aids and go right to an implant. Cochlear implantation is an invasive and costly surgery that is reserved for only the few. In fact, before someone can be considered a candidate if they are not completely deaf, they must have tried hearing aids without success.
- Stapedectomy - Conductive hearing loss can result from the tiny bones of the middle ear becoming immobile and ineffective for transmitting sound to the inner ear. Otosclerosis is a common reason this can happen, and it results from extra bone material forming around the footplate of the stapes, the innermost bone of the middle ear. A stapedectomy is a procedure in which the stapes is replaced with a prosthesis. This surgery is reserved for specific medical conditions that create conductive hearing loss and is not used for sensorineural hearing loss.
Essential oils for hearing loss
Essential oils are wildly popular as natural remedies for everything from anxiety and depression to allergies and the flu virus. We have even seen some claims about essential oils' effectiveness for restoring your hearing.
Essential oils cannot cure sensorineural hearing loss, and there is no research to support claims that they can. However, that doesn't mean oils are without merit. Some oils have antibacterial properties, and combinations of oils are used in aromatherapy applications. Because some temporary hearing losses can be attributed to allergy flare ups and the common cold, using essential oils to alleviate these symptoms may indirectly stave off associated conductive, temporary hearing loss. In addition, untreated hearing loss has been definitively linked to higher levels of anxiety and feelings of depression. It is worth experimenting with oils such as lavender because it has proven calming effects that can soothe these byproducts of hearing loss.
Drugs to restore hearing
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a magic pill for everything that ails us, including hearing loss? If a pharmaceutical solution to sensorineural hearing loss seems like a great idea to you, you're in good company. Researchers from all over the world have been searching for ways to make curing hearing loss as easy as a trip to the pharmacy.
Healthy Hearing keeps abreast of the science community's exciting discoveries. For example, we reported on a study showing that certain proteins found in sea anemones were able to restore damaged inner ear hair cells in mice. Another discovery about a potential cure for hearing loss came from researchers who noticed similarities between intestinal support cells and the cells in the cochlea.
These and other developments towards restoring hearing in the scientific community are exciting . However, in each case, the specific applications that could be used in humans are years, if not decades, away. Each potential remedy would need extensive research with humans before the long process of clinical trials and drug approval could even begin.
What can restore hearing?
Restoring the type of permanent hearing loss experienced by most adults due to natural aging, noise exposure, ototoxic medications and other causes isn't as straightforward as correcting some other medical conditions, but it's far from difficult. Restoring your hearing can be as simple as visiting a hearing care professional and being professionally fit with appropriate hearing aids.