Several options are available for hearing loss, ranging from medical treatment to listening devices, such as hearing aids. Treatment depends of the cause and severity of hearing loss. For age-related hearing loss, there is no cure, but hearing aids and other listening devices help treat the problem and improve quality of life.
Medical treatment, including medications and surgery, is recommended for many types of hearing problems, particularly conductive hearing loss. However, even if medical treatment is not necessary for your type of hearing loss, we highly recommend a visit to an audiologist for both a definite diagnosis of the type of hearing loss and treatment advice.
Some of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss are fluid in the middle ear, with or without infection, and earwax blocking the ear canal. In cases where there is a bacterial infection of the middle ear, antibiotics are often used. Although these conditions often can be diagnosed and treated by a primary care doctor, persistent problems may require the care of an ear specialist. Conductive hearing loss also may be caused by a problem with the bones of the middle ear, which, in many cases, can be treated with surgery.
If diagnosed with hearing loss that cannot be treated medically, a doctor will recommend a hearing aid evaluation and consultation with an audiologist. This consultation appointment will help determine which hearing aids or other assistive listening devices would be most appropriate. Lifestyle, listening needs and hearing concerns are important in determining the appropriate hearing aids.
In some cases, hearing or alerting assistive devices may be recommended in addition to, or instead of, hearing aids. Hearing assistance technologies come in two forms:
There are a number of devices that can assist hearing in a variety of settings. These include:
For details on each of the devices listed above, please see Hearing Enhancement Devices.
People with hearing loss can benefit from signaling and substitution systems, which convert sound or key strokes into another mode, such as text or flashing lights. These systems include:
A common complaint of hearing aid users is the inability to use cell phones, particularly digital cell phones, with their hearing aids, or that they experience interference when trying to do so. Digital hearing aids are being continually updated to provide shielding from this interference. Cell phone technology also is changing. In fact, in 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed a report requiring a number of future actions by manufacturers and service providers to make digital wireless phones that are capable of being used effectively with hearing aids.
In the meantime, there are many strategies that will improve listening when using cell and land based telephones with hearing aids. For more information, please see Strategies for Using Your Cell Phone with Your Hearing Aids.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help improve the hearing of people with severe, irreversible hearing loss. Although a cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing, it can allow a person to hear and understand more speech than was possible with a hearing aid. The Cochlear Implant Center at UCSF Medical Center has been involved in the development and design of cochlear implant systems for over 30 years.
Unfortunately, hearing aids will not correct hearing loss or restore hearing to normal levels. However, the use of hearing aids and assistive listening devices along with auditory training can help maximize hearing abilities. Training may consists of:
In addition, UCSF Audiology researchers are leaders in the quest to develop home based therapies for enhancing listening ability.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.