Treatment Options for Hearing Loss

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Hearing loss is a common condition that affects hearing, communication, and social skills. Treatment options for hearing loss may be as simple as removing excess earwax, treating underlying conditions (such as fluid in the ear), or using a hearing aid. More complicated options include surgery or cochlear implants.

Read on to learn more about treatment options for hearing loss.

Ways to Treat Hearing Loss - Illustration by Laura Porter

Verywell / Laura Porter

Is There a Cure for Hearing Loss?

The underlying cause and type of hearing loss you have will dictate whether it can be cured.

Conductive hearing loss, which is often caused by excessive earwax or fluid in the ear, can often be cured.

The other main type of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, is usually the result of a problem with the cochlea, or auditory nerve, and is more likely to be permanent.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss

In the United States, 13% of people over age 12 have some degree of hearing loss in both ears. The incidence of hearing loss is even greater in older adults. Around 25% of individuals over age 65 and 50% of individuals over age 75 have debilitating hearing loss.

Treatment

Earwax Removal

There are many methods to remove earwax, but not all are safe.

If you want to try to remove ear wax at home, there are over-the-counter (OTC) removal drops that are safe for individuals who have not had ear surgery.

You should not use cotton swabs or stick foreign objects such as paper clips into your ear in an effort to remove wax. The practice of ear candling—placing a lighted hollow candle into the ear canal to suction out earwax—is also discouraged.

If you have enough excess earwax to diminish your hearing, you may have a blockage. If so, it's best to have it treated by a healthcare provider. They usually remove earwax with special tools like curettes (small scraping tools).

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are devices that amplify sound. They are worn either behind the ear or just inside the outer ear canal. They are a good option for individuals with more permanent types of hearing loss.

Hearing aids come in many styles, including with features like Bluetooth. These devices continue to improve in functionality.

Surgery

Surgery may be performed for conductive hearing loss. For example, if your hearing loss is caused by fluid in the ear, surgically implanting a ventilation tube in the auditory tube will open it up so that the fluid can drain out.

Otosclerosis, which is a condition of abnormal bone growth inside the ear, causes damage to the tiny bones in the ear necessary for hearing. This condition is another cause of hearing loss that can be surgically treated. The bones can be removed to improve hearing.

Surgery may also be necessary to remove growths in the ear, such as acoustic neuromas, which can impair hearing. There are also special types of hearing aids that are surgically implanted.

Installing cochlear implants is a common surgical procedure to treat hearing loss.

A cochlear implant is a device that stimulates the cochlear nerve. It is only recommended for people whose sensorineural hearing loss cannot be helped with a traditional hearing aid. It consists of multiple parts:

  • An external part, which goes behind the ear, works to pick up sounds and transmit to the internal portion of the device.
  • The internal part of a cochlear implant has wires and electrodes that send signals directly to the cochlear nerve. The internal portion must be surgically placed under the skin (also behind the ear).

A cochlear implant will gradually allow you to better understand speech, but most people need to undergo rehabilitation to get the most out of their cochlear implant.

Prevention

Not all types of hearing loss can be prevented.

However, one of the most common types of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, can be prevented. Sounds that reach 85 decibels or more can damage your hearing. Activities that can expose you to this level of noise include:

  • Target shooting
  • Going to the movies
  • Listening to earbuds or headphones at maximum volume
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Using recreational vehicles, such as motorcycles or snowmobiles
  • Using certain power tools

The longer you are exposed to loud noise, the more likely you are to suffer noise-induced hearing loss. Therefore, you should limit the amount of time you are exposed and, when necessary, wear proper ear protection, such as ear plugs.

You can also protect your hearing by avoiding medications that are known to cause hearing loss and by seeking prompt treatment for ear problems, such as ear infections or fluid in the ear.

Sudden hearing loss should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Summary

The best treatment for hearing loss depends on multiple factors that are unique to an individual's circumstances. A patient will need to work with their healthcare provider or an audiologist to develop a treatment plan that best suits their individual needs. Common treatment options include hearing aids, earwax removal, implants, or surgery.

A Word From Verywell

Hearing loss is not only frustrating, it can be socially isolating and lead to depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline. Early and adequate treatment may prevent further hearing loss, as well as the psychological problems associated with it. Improving your communication and social skills through treatment will improve your quality of life.

If you are suffering from an incurable form of hearing loss, other options exist to improve your communication skills. These include working with a speech therapist, learning sign language or lip reading, and using advanced technological devices to improve communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does research show about hearing loss?

    Research shows that hearing loss is common, more likely to occur in individuals of advanced age, and can lead to social isolation, mental health challenges, and cognitive problems. Research also shows that adequate treatment can minimize the harmful effects of hearing loss.

  • What causes hearing loss?

    Hearing loss can be genetic and present at birth, or it can be the result of health conditions, such as fluid in the ear. The natural aging process and exposure to loud noises over time can also cause hearing loss.

  • What causes hearing loss in one ear?

    Hearing loss that only affects one ear is more likely to be due to an underlying medical condition, such as fluid in the ear, an ear infection, excessive earwax, cholesteatoma, or Meneire's disease.

  • With what percentage of hearing loss are people considered legally deaf?

    It depends on where you live. In the United States, being legally deaf is defined by individual states. Many states consider legally deaf to be a hearing loss of 70 or more decibels, with an ability to understand speech at 50% or less with hearing aids.

Was this page helpful?
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick statistics about hearing.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hearing aids and personal sound amplification products: what to know.

  3. Michigan Ear Institute. Otosclerosis and stapedectomy.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Cochlear implant surgery.

  5. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Noise-induced hearing loss.

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. The hidden risks of hearing loss.

  7. National Health Service. Overview hearing loss.

  8. Helping Me Hear. What percentage of hearing loss is legally deaf?