Hearing loss is a common problem as people age, but it can happen at any age if you abuse your ears or don’t properly clean or maintain them. The two main categories of hearing loss are sensorineural and conductive. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common and infers damage to the inner sensing organ (cochlea) or to the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be corrected, although hearing aids and cochlear implants can help. In contrast, conductive hearing loss (CHL) occurs when sound waves are partially blocked when traveling to the very small bones (ossicles) of the middle ear. The good news is CHL can very often be corrected.
EditGetting Your Ears Examined
- See your doctor about your hearing problem. If you’ve noticed a reduction or change in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional so they can examine your ears for any obvious abnormalities and ask you pertinent questions about your history and lifestyle. Most problems that negatively affect hearing are benign and reversible, so don’t be scared to seek professional opinions.
- Don’t try to self diagnose or get an unqualified friend or family member to dig in your ears.
- Your healthcare professional may refer you to an ear specialist for further examination.
- See a specialist to get a hearing test. An ear specialist (otolaryngologist) or audiologist can conduct a more thorough ear exam, including a hearing or audiometric test, which evaluates the ability of sound to reach the brain. This is a relatively quick and painless test and vital to understanding if your hearing issue is permanent or not.
- The otolaryngologist will be able to tell you if your problem is related to SNHL or CHL.
- Understand your diagnosis and treatment options. Make sure you get the doctor to explain the diagnosis clearly and provide you with various treatment options. If your problem is SNHL, then treatment will likely be forthcoming from an otolaryngologist. However, if you problem is CHL, then you have many more treatment options, possibly including some simple and safe home remedies depending on the cause.
- Researching hearing loss on the internet will give you an idea of potential treatments, especially for CHL, but always stick to reputable medical sites.
EditCombating Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
- Understand that SNHL can’t be reclaimed naturally. Although you can’t attain normal hearing via natural ways or home remedies if you suffer from SNHL, advances in medicine and technology can certainly help your situation.
- Get a hearing aid. A hearing aid is a small electronic device that is worn in or behind the ear. They make some sounds louder by magnifying sound vibrations entering the ear. A hearing aid has three main parts: it receives sound through a microphone, which converts sounds into electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier, which amplifies them and sends them to the cochlea through a tiny speaker. The sounds then cause little hairs to move within the cochlea, which stimulate nerves to send messages to the hearing center of the brain.
- These days, hearing aids are quite small and hardly noticeable, so there’s no need to be overly self-conscious if they are your best option.
- Hearing aids can work a little differently depending on their electronics, which are either analog or digital.
- Get a cochlear implant. If the hairs within your cochlea are too damaged due to an infection, tumor or head injury, then a hearing aid will not be of much use. Instead, you will need an invasive operation called a cochlear implant in order to regain functional hearing, which is an electronic medical device that does the work of the damaged cochlea to provide sound signals to the brain.
- A cochlear implant is significantly more expensive than a hearing aid.
- Get a hearing assistive technology (HAT) device. There are a variety of other technologies based on electronic amplification, electromagnetic energy transmission, radio signals or infrared waves that are designed to enhance sound either on their own or work in conjunction with a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
- Schedule a surgical procedure. Surgery may be needed to drain an inner ear infection, remove a tumor or reshape a genetic malformation in order to help restore hearing loss. Keep in mind that any surgical procedure carries risks, so be well informed before choosing this route.
EditCombating Conductive Hearing Loss (CHL)
- Clean out your outer ear canal. Blockage by earwax or other debris is a common cause of CHL. Earwax is healthy in small amounts and has protective, lubricating and antibacterial properties. Most of the time the ear canals are self-cleaning, but sometimes they become clogged or impacted, which causes partial hearing loss in addition to sensations of ear fullness, itchiness or ringing (tinnitus). Cotton-tipped applicators are not recommended for cleaning deep into the ear canal, so consider safer methods such as placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil or glycerin into your clogged ear.
- Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide drops may also safely dissolve earwax, although they will likely cause a benign stinging or burning sensation for a few minutes.
- Irrigation or ear syringing can be performed by a physician or at home using widely available and inexpensive irrigation kits. Make sure to use a warm saline solution for best results.
- A procedure called ear candling is not recommended by doctors to clean ear canals due to risks of burning and eardrum perforation.
- Clear out your eustachian tubes. The common cold, sinusitis and allergies can clog the eustachian tubes (which connect the middle ear with the upper throat and nasal cavity) with fluid and mucous, leading to ear pain, popping sensations and reduced hearing. Blocked eustachian tubes often get better without attention, but to accelerate their clearing try closing your mouth and holding your nose, then gently blow as if you are blowing your nose.
- Yawning or chewing gum also may help unclog eustachian tubes.
- You may feel a “pop” when the tubes open up, which signifies equal pressure between the inside and outside of your ears.
- Consider the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy or inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as the pathogenic bacteria that can cause inner and middle ear infections. If your doctor diagnoses you with an ear infection, then an antibiotic such as amoxicillin might be helpful and help restore your hearing.
- Keep in mind that some oral antibiotics, such as erythromycin and tetracycline, can also cause hearing loss.
EditPracticing Exercises That Improve Hearing
- Enhance your hearing with exercise. If you don’t suffer from either SNHL or CHL, but simply want to improve your hearing then engage in regular cardiovascular exercise because it helps with blood circulation and fine tuning within the ear .
- Practice noise filtering. Play music at relatively low volumes while having a conversation with a friend. Add a second source of music and then a third source while continuously focusing on the conversation. This will train your ears to filter out ambient sounds.
- Practice identifying the source of sounds. Close your eyes and ask a friend to walk to a location of their choosing somewhere away from you, perhaps away or more. Have your partner make two-second bursts of sound with a horn or bell and then point to where you think the sound came from. Have your friend change their direction and distance each time.
- Practice recognizing various types of sound. Close your eyes and listen to all the different sounds in your environment. One by one, try to decipher individual sounds that you hear, both near and far away. The more you practice, the more sounds you will learn to recognize.
- Consider downloading software apps designed to improve hearing. Examples include CLIX (based on identifying differences between words), Forbrain (based on recognizing pertinent sounds in voices), and Category Carousel (based on associating sounds with images).
EditChanging Your Diet
- Eat foods that contain nutrients needed for good health and normal ear function. Examples of such food include cold-water fish (herring, salmon, trout), most nuts, seeds and whole grains, and virtually all fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Antioxidants combat aging throughout the body and include vitamins A, C and E. Antioxidants neutralize oxygen radicals that build up in the body and cause damage.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) promotes blood circulation to the ear (and throughout the body) by slightly expanding small blood vessels, whereas B6 (pyridoxamine) is needed for healthy nerve function.
- Poor vitamin B12 and folate (vitamin B9) status may be associated with age-related auditory dysfunction, so make sure your levels are adequate via food sources or supplements.
- Avoid foods that may make a negative impact on hearing. In addition to adding certain foods for health benefits, removing certain foods from your diet may yield health results and better hearing also.
- A diet high in saturated animal fat is linked to high blood cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of clogged arteries. Your ears need proper blood flow to perform well.
- Consuming high levels of salt may increase fluid retention in your ears.
- Avoid heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metals are toxic to nerves (especially small ones like those which innervate the inner ear) and ultimately destroy them. The body can’t rid itself of heavy metals very well, so they build up with time and become more dangerous.
- Foods relatively high in mercury tend to be fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.
EditPreventing Hearing Loss
- Take measures to stop further hearing deterioration from loud noises. Although you can’t reverse SNHL, you can take steps to keep it from getting worse. For example, reduce your exposure to loud and sustained noises and wear earplugs if exposure is unavoidable.
- Reconsider going to rock concerts or sporting events such as car racing.
- Turn down the volume on you MP3 device while listening to your favorite music.
- Protect your ears from sharp objects. Never stick a sharp object into your ear! Sticking a pin, pencil, knife or other sharp object into your ear may perforate your eardrum and lead to permanent hearing loss.
- A perforated eardrum may be accompanied by pain, dizziness, and a ringing in your ears.
- Consider the impact medications might have on your hearing. Although some medications are clearly life saving and needed on a regular basis, others that deal with minor symptoms such as headaches may be negatively impacting your hearing.
- Salicylates such as aspirin have been shown to disrupt electrical current in the inner ear.
- Medicines used to treat high blood pressure and cancer also create a higher risk of hearing loss.
- Some chemotherapy drugs can even cause permanent hearing loss. These drugs include cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil, bleomycin, and nitrogen mustard.
- High doses of aspirin can cause temporary hearing loss.
- Antimalarial medications such as quinine and chloroquine can also cause temporary sensorineural hearing loss.
- Treat other health issues promptly that may otherwise impact your hearing. Don’t let your cold, flu, sinus infection or allergies get out of control (or become chronic / recurring) such that it impacts your ears and reduces your hearing. Keep your immune system strong so that it can naturally fight off infections.
- Getting lots of sleep, drinking lots of water, controlling your stress and eating nutritious food all positively impact your immune system.
- Some serious health conditions, such as diabetes, may lead to hearing loss as well. If you have diabetes, do what you can to keep it under control and seek immediate medical attention if you start having ear pain. This may be a sign of a condition called necrotizing external otitis, which can lead to hearing loss and even death.
- If you can’t hear very well, remember to speak in a slightly softer tone than you think you need to because it’s common to overcompensate and talk loudly if you can’t hear your own voice very well.
- Consider stop smoking because smokers are more likely to experience hearing loss than non-smokers.
- Ringing in your ears, also called tinnitus, is a sign of inner ear damage and can be a precursor to hearing loss.
- Remove Ear Wax from a Hearing Aid
- Become an Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Make a Doorbell for Deaf Person
- Clean Your Ears
- Hear TV Sound Without Blasting Everyone Else Out
- Unclog the Inner Ear or Eustachian Tube
EditSources and Citations
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