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HEARING LOSS

Hearing Loss

If you cannot determine the cause of your hearing loss, see a doctor. Other symptoms that require a trip to the doctor include the following:

  • You have associated symptoms such as ringing in the ears or vertigo.
  • You have a fever or pain.
  • You are taking any medications that affect hearing
  • Your hearing loss is sudden and prolonged.

Do not delay getting medical attention if your hearing loss is associated with any of the following:

  • Recent or present foreign body in the ear
  • Fluid or blood coming from the ear
  • Recent pressure changes (diving)
  • Fever not controlled with acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Severe trauma to the head

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Self-Care at Home

When the cause of the hearing loss is unknown, it is best to seek medical attention

  • If you know that earwax has built up in the ear, over-the-counter preparations can be used to soften the wax so that it can come out of the ear on its own.
  • Never use cotton swabs to probe into or clean the ear canal. Do not place cotton balls and liquids into the ear canal.
  • Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower fever or pain until you can see a doctor.
  • If you have hearing loss that cannot be cured, hearing aids can be of great benefit
    Follow-up

    Many treatments are available for permanent hearing loss.

    • People with conductive hearing loss can have the middle ear reconstructed by an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
    • Hearing aids are effective and well tolerated for people with conductive hearing loss.
    • People who are profoundly deaf may benefit from a cochlear implant.

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    Prevention

    Noise-induced hearing loss is usually permanent and progresses with each exposure. Use proper ear protection when working around loud noises.

    Never put foreign objects in the ear.

    • Do not use cotton swabs to probe or clean the ear canals.
    • Do not put cotton balls or liquids into the ear unless prescribed by a doctor.

    Treat middle ear infections as soon as possible. Hearing loss may be prevented by prompt treatment. Most doctors believe that fluid in the middle ear (called an effusion) lasting longer than 6 weeks should be drained and tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes) placed in the middle ear.

    If you are taking medications that can cause hearing loss, your doctor should carefully monitor their levels with blood tests.

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    Outlook

    The likelihood that hearing will return depends on the cause of the hearing loss.

    Hearing will usually return to normal with removal of foreign bodies in the canal, removal of wax in the canal, and treatment of ear canal infections (obits external).

    Hearing will usually return to normal after treatment of middle ear infection (obits media).

    • Antibiotics are usually given for 7-14 days.
    • Rarely, a second course of different antibiotics may be necessary if the infection does not respond to the first type of antibiotic.
    • It may, however, take a longer period of time for the fluid in the middle ear to resolve completely and the hearing to return to normal.

    Injuries to the tympanic membrane will usually heal on their own. Once healed, hearing usually returns to normal.

    • If the perforation is large (bigger than 50% of the membrane), surgery may be required to fix the eardrum.
    • A skin graft is sometimes used to replace or fix the tympanic membrane.

    Hearing loss due to drugs may or may not return with withdrawal of the drug.

    • No proven treatment restores the hearing other than removal of the drug.
    • Some doctors may try giving drugs known as steroids to restore hearing.

    Hearing loss due to infections such as meningitis may not return. The doctor may try using steroids during the illness to decrease the amount of hearing loss. Hearing loss due to Menifee disease, acoustic neuronal, and age is usually permanent.

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