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.
Assistive Listening, Hearing Enhancement and Alerting Devices
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:
- Signaling or Test Display Devices These are designed to convert sound or keystrokes into visual or vibratory stimulus, or into a written text.
- Assistive Listening Devices These instruments are designed to enhance the sound that is received by picking up the sound closer to its source. This reduces the effects of distance, noise and reverberation and transmits sound directly to the ears or hearing aids.
There are a number of devices that can assist hearing in a variety of settings. These include:
- Large Area Listening Systems
- Television Listening Systems
- Conference Microphones
- Personal FM Systems
- Amplified Telephones
For details on each of the devices listed above, please see Hearing Enhancement Devices.
Signaling and Text Display Systems
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:
- Signaling and Warning Systems
- TV Closed Captioning
Digital Cell Phones and Hearing Aid Use
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.
Aural Rehabilitation and Listening and Auditory Communication Enhancement
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:
- Audiologic rehabilitation classes
- Learning good listening strategies
- Establishing guidelines for communicating with those around you
In addition, UCSF Audiology researchers are leaders in the quest to develop home based therapies for enhancing listening ability.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Treatments we specialize in
Audiologists work with patients with hearing loss to determine their communication needs and preferences to find the appropriate hearing aid.Learn more
The small electronic device placed in the inner ear can allow a person to hear more than was possible with a hearing aid.Learn more
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