Many people who suffer from hearing loss wonder if there is a surgical solution to their problem. While there are a number of surgeries available to help people with hearing loss, these procedures are only appropriate for people with certain kinds of hearing loss.
So, is corrective surgery appropriate for you? Well, it depends.
Your hearing healthcare professional is your best source for personalized information regarding your hearing health, but it’s always good to go into those conversations with a bit of background knowledge on what options might be available to you.
The first step in deciding if corrective surgery is appropriate for you is to determine what kind of hearing loss you have. While surgery isn’t for everyone, people with sensorineural and conductive hearing loss might benefit from a number of different procedures.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss, also called “nerve deafness”, is one of the most common types of hearing loss in adults. While there are many different causes of sensorineural hearing loss, many people acquire the condition in old age (presbycusis), through exposure to loud noises, disease, infection, trauma, tumors, or medications.
People who suffer from this condition have damaged the hair cells of the inner ear or the nerve pathways between the inner ear and the brain. These little hair cells are found inside the cochlea, which is the organ responsible for translating noise into electrical impulses for the brain to comprehend.
Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and no surgery can repair the damage. However, there is a procedure available that can essentially bypass the damaged cochlea and hair cells using cochlear implants.
Cochlear implants are appropriate for some adults and children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Unlike a hearing aid, these implants don’t amplify sound; instead, they directly send messages to the auditory nerve.
This procedure is highly invasive and is often only for patients with severe hearing impairments for whom hearing aids have been unsuccessful, so it is certainly not for everyone.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear. This damage or blockage prevents sound from being properly conducted into the nerve endings in the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and for some, medical and surgical interventions can restore at least some hearing capabilities.
There are a couple different surgical procedures available to people with conductive hearing loss; however, they are only appropriate for people with specific forms of hearing loss.
Pressure equalization (PE) tubes are a somewhat common treatment for children with frequent or severe ear infections that don’t clear up on their own. As ear infections can cause hearing loss, PE tubes can be an effective surgical solution.
These tiny tubes are inserted by a hearing healthcare professional to allow air into the middle ear, which can clear the blockage and can restore normal hearing. Most tubes normally fall out on their own, but some long-term tubes need to be removed by a healthcare professional.
PE tubes are not just for children, however. Some adults who suffer from the same ear infection conditions may benefit from this procedure. Moreover, this surgery can correct hearing problems in some people with malformed eardrums, Down Syndrome, or cleft palate.
Another surgical intervention for people with conductive hearing loss is the stapedectomy. This procedure is designed for people with some kinds of otosclerosis, or an abnormal hardening or growth of the bone tissue in the middle ear. Generally, only people with stapedial otosclerosis, wherein the stapes bone is prevented from vibrating, can benefit from the stapedectomy.
During this procedure, a prosthetic device is implanted in the middle ear to bypass this bone growth and hardening. This allows noise to be conducted into the inner ear despite the blockage in the middle ear.
Is Surgery Right For You?
Your hearing healthcare professional is your ultimate source of guidance and support with your hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing loss surgery is not for everyone. However, if you suffer from some types of sensorineural or conductive hearing loss, your healthcare provider can help you decide what procedures might be right for you.
The best first step toward better hearing health is a conversation with your hearing healthcare provider. So, if you are concerned about your hearing loss and are interested in what surgical procedures might be available to you, scheduling an appointment with your provider can help you toward that goal.