Can Surgery Fix My Hearing Loss?
For many people that suffer from hearing loss, one of the first questions they wonder is if surgery is a viable option to correct the problem. Sometimes it is, but most often, it is not. The answer to this question really depends on what type of hearing loss you have. If you have a typical sensorineural hearing loss “nerve loss,” there is no surgery that can be done to bring your hearing back. There is simply no way to “repair” the nerves that have been damaged so that they’ll work properly again. For most sensorineural hearing losses, the use of hearing aids is the only option. If however, you have a conductive hearing loss, or a mixed hearing loss, there may be procedures which can help you regain some (or all) of your hearing.
The first step to determine whether or not your hearing can be treated with surgery is to have your hearing checked. At the end of your hearing test, your hearing provider will be able to tell you whether you have a sensorineural loss, conductive loss, or mixed loss. If you have a conductive loss, it is usually due to one of three reasons.
Ear infection: One of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss is ear infections. If you have an ear infection or there is fluid in the middle ear, the eardrum will typically be perforated by a physician to allow for drainage. During this time, the your hearing may get slightly worse, but when the infection has cleared, the ear drum will be patched or will heal itself, and normal hearing will return.
Otoscerlosis: Another common cause of conductive hearing loss is otosclerosis, which in 60% of cases is genetic. Otosclerosis is a disease of the middle ear, which causes the bones which transmit sound to become fixated together so they cannot do their jobs. Think of those bones like the inner workings of a watch, where each mechanism passes energy on to the next, to complete the end goal. When one of those pieces is out of sync, the whole process is impacted, and that, in the simplest terms, is what otosclerosis is. A common procedure to fix otosclerosis is a stapedectomy, in which the stapes bone is replaced with a prosthesis that can freely move in concert with the other bones of the middle ear and transmit sound vibrations.
Loud impact noises: Finally, you can sometimes get a conductive hearing loss as a result of a very loud impact noise, for example, an explosion very close to you. When this happens, the middle ear bones basically get “jammed up” and are not able to transmit energy (sound) as they normally would. Many times, a conductive hearing loss from loud noises will heal itself over time.
Switching back to sensorineural hearing loss, there are no surgeries that are widely accepted, affordable, or guaranteed, to fix this type of a loss. The closest thing to a “fix” for sensorineural hearing loss, (surgically speaking), is an implantable device called Esteem, which is surgically inserted in and behind your ear during an outpatient procedure conducted by an ear nose and throat doctor. It is invisible, works 24 hrs a day, and lasts for a minimum of 2.5 years. At $30,000 for the procedure, the Esteem is very cost prohibitive, and most insurances will not pay for it. Aside from that initial payment, the battery will need to be replaced on average about every 6 years, which costs an additional $6,000+.
If you have a hearing loss, chances are your best solution (in terms of sound quality and cost effectiveness), is to wear hearing aids- but don’t let that scare you away! Hearing aids today can be completely invisible, waterproof, worn 24/7, and many of them will integrate with your smartphone and other devices to let you do some really cool things.
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.