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Hearing Loss (cont.)

How Do I Prevent Hearing Loss?

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is usually permanent and progresses with each exposure. Use proper ear protection when working around loud noises.
  • Never put foreign objects in the ear.
  • Do not use cotton swabs to probe or clean the ear canals.
  • Do not put cotton balls or liquids into the ear unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • Treat middle ear infections as soon as possible. Hearing loss may be prevented by prompt treatment. Most doctors believe that fluid in the middle ear (called an effusion) lasting longer than 6-12 weeks should be drained and tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes) placed in the middle ear.
  • If you are taking medications that can cause hearing loss, your doctor should carefully monitor their levels with blood tests.

What Is the Prognosis for Hearing Loss?

The likelihood that hearing will return depends on the cause of the hearing loss.

  • Hearing will usually return to normal with removal of foreign bodies in the canal, removal of wax in the canal, and treatment of ear canal infections (otitis externa).
  • Hearing will usually return to normal after treatment of middle ear infection (otitis media).
    • Antibiotics are usually given for 7-14 days.
    • Rarely, a second course of different antibiotics may be necessary if the infection does not respond to the first type of antibiotic.
    • It may, however, take a longer period of time (even as long as three months or more) for the fluid in the middle ear to resolve completely and the hearing to return to normal.
  • Injuries to the tympanic membrane will usually heal on their own. Once healed, hearing usually returns to normal.
    • If the perforation is large (bigger than 50% of the membrane), surgery may be required to fix the eardrum.
    • A skin graft is sometimes used to replace or fix the tympanic membrane.
  • Hearing loss due to drugs may or may not return with withdrawal of the drug.
    • No proven treatment restores the hearing other than removal of the drug.
    • Some doctors may try giving drugs known as steroids to restore hearing.
  • Hearing loss due to infections such as meningitis may not return. The doctor may try using steroids during the illness to decrease the amount of hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss due to Ménière disease, acoustic neuroma, and age is usually permanent.

For More Information on Hearing Loss

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
National Institutes of Health
800-241-1044 
800-241-1055 (TTY)

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People

7910 Woodmont Ave, Suite 1200
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
301-657-2248
301-657-2249 (TTY)

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Maryland 20852
(800)498-2071
301-897-5700 (TTY)

Nemours Foundation, What's Hearing Loss

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Hearing Loss and Older Adults

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Type, Degree, and Configuration of Hearing Loss

Picture of Ear Anatomy

Picture of the anatomy of the ear
Picture of the anatomy of the ear

Medically reviewed by Peter O'Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine

REFERENCE:

"Evaluation of hearing loss in adults"
UpToDate.com


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2016
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