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Quick Facts

Treatment of Hearing Loss

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Apr 2019
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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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How can I treat my hearing loss?

Many types of hearing loss have no cure, but certain devices can help you hear better and manage daily life. These include:

  • Hearing aids

  • Cochlear implants

  • Brain stem implants

  • Other kinds of technology to help you communicate and understand sounds

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is a device that makes sound louder. Hearing aids have:

  • Built-in microphone to pick up sounds

  • Battery-powered amplifier

  • Tiny speaker that fits in your ear canal

A hearing aid works only if you have some hearing, not if you're completely deaf. A hearing aid can’t make your hearing perfect, but it may help you communicate better.

There are different types of hearing aids. Some hearing aids amplify all sounds. Others have a computer processor that amplifies certain sound pitches more than others. Hearing aids come in different sizes:

  • Large hearing aids that fit over and around your ear

  • Medium hearing aids that fit in your ear

  • Very small hearing aids that fit inside your ear canal

A hearing aid specialist can help you select the type of hearing aid that works best for you. If one kind of hearing aid doesn’t work well for you, ask your doctor about trying a different kind.

Phones can be hard to use with hearing aids. Some hearing aids have a special feature that makes it easier to hear when using the phone.

What is a cochlear implant?

The cochlea is a tiny organ deep inside each of your ears. It turns sound waves that come into your ears into nerve signals to send to your brain. Those nerve signals are what you actually "hear."

Sometimes, hearing loss happens because sound waves can't get through the middle part of your ear to the cochlea. In this case, it doesn't help much to just make sound louder, the way a hearing aid does. Instead, doctors may give you a cochlear implant.

A cochlear implant:

  • Converts sound waves to electrical signals

  • Puts the signals directly into your cochlea with tiny wires

A doctor does surgery to implant the wires into your cochlea.

A cochlear implant has two parts: a microphone and sound processor that you wear behind your ear, and an implant placed under the skin that has the wires going into your cochlea.

You may need a cochlear implant if you can’t understand more than half the words in a sentence, even with a hearing aid. Cochlear implants work best if your hearing loss is recent or you used a hearing aid successfully before the implant.

A cochlear implant doesn't help you hear perfectly, but it may:

  • Help you to read lips better

  • Let you hear sounds such as fire alarms, doorbells, and phones

  • Help you hear your own voice, so you can speak more clearly and at the right volume level

What is a brain stem implant?

Your brain stem is the bottom part of your brain. It has many functions, including processing hearing. If the sound-transmitting nerves in your ear are damaged, then hearing aids and cochlear implants can't help much.

But if your brain stem is okay, then doctors may do a brain stem implant. This is the same idea as a cochlear implant.

A brain stem implant has:

  • An external microphone and processor that converts sound waves to electrical signals

  • Wires that puts the signals directly into your brain stem

A doctor does surgery to implant the wires into your brain stem. The signals aren't as good as regular hearing, but they can help you detect sounds.

What else can help me cope with my hearing loss?

Certain devices and technology may help, including:

  • Lights to alert you when the doorbell is ringing or a baby is crying

  • Special sound systems in theaters, churches, or other places where there are a lot of other noises

  • Closed captions for television programs and videos

  • Telephone devices that provide a written version of the conversation

Other strategies can include:

  • Learning and using sign language

  • Learning to read lips

  • Asking people to face you when they’re speaking to you

  • Choosing to avoid or change situations that may make it harder for you to understand other people, such as visiting restaurants during off-peak hours and asking for a booth or a quieter location

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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