Treatment for hearing loss varies depending upon the cause of the hearing impairment. Treatment may involve removing wax or dirt from the ear or treating an underlying infection. If there is damage or a structural problem with the eardrum or ossicles, surgery may help to repair it. If the problem is with the cochlea or hearing nerve, a hearing aid or cochlear implant may be recommended.
Hearing aids come in various forms that fit inside or behind the ear and make sounds louder. They are adjusted by the audiologist so that the sound coming in is amplified enough to allow the person with a hearing impairment to hear it clearly.
Sometimes, the hearing loss is so severe that the most powerful hearing aids can’t amplify the sound enough. In those cases, a cochlear implant may be recommended.
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that bypass the damaged inner ear and send signals directly to the auditory nerve. A small microphone behind the ear picks up sound waves and sends them to a receiver that has been placed under the scalp. This receiver then transmits impulses directly to the auditory nerve. These signals are perceived as sound and allow the person to hear.
Depending upon whether someone is born without hearing (congenital deafness) or loses hearing later in life (after learning to hear and speak, which is known as post-lingual deafness), medical professionals will determine how much therapy the person needs to learn to use an implant effectively. Many people with implants learn to hear sounds effectively and even use the telephone.
More than 300,000 people around the world have received cochlear implants and about one third of them are children.
Some patients with hearing loss and their families may decide not to restore hearing. This is particularly true of children whose parents are hearing impaired and want their children to be able to function in the deaf community.