Hearing loss is a common condition, experienced by more than 48 million people in the U.S. It is the third most common physical condition, behind only arthritis and heart disease. With these numbers, it is no surprise that there are a wide variety of treatment options available. While most cases can be treated with the use of a hearing aid, some may require something more permanent: surgery.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two types of hearing loss– sensorineural and conductive. Determining the right treatment for you starts with your audiologist confirming your type and degree of hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. Within the ear are tiny hair cells. These hair cells convert soundwaves to electrical impulses, which are then sent via the auditory nerve to the brain, where they are translated into sound. These hair cells can become permanently damaged by exposure to loud noise, aging, disease, trauma and infection.
Surgery for sensorineural hearing loss includes cochlear implants and implantable hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss is caused by an obstruction in the outer or middle ear, preventing soundwaves from reaching the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is usually caused by fluid buildup, earwax, middle ear infection, tumors and poor Eustachian tube function.
Surgery to treat this type of hearing loss include bone anchored hearing systems, PE tubes and stapedectomy.
Surgical Treatment Options for Hearing Loss
Cochlear implants treat profound hearing loss
Children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss that does not respond to hearing aids are good candidates for this surgery. While a traditional hearing aid amplifies sounds, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged ear and stimulates the auditory nerve directly.
The implant contains two parts, the external component the sits behind the ear to capture sound and translates it into electrical signals, and the implant, a small electronic device that is surgically placed under the skin near the ear. The implant is connected with electrodes that are inserted into the cochlea.
Implantable hearing aids are nearly invisible
An extended wear hearing aid called Lyric can be worn for several months at a time. It is placed deep within the ear canal, close to the eardrum. This helps the user experience more natural sound. The device is water-resistant, so it can be worn while showering and exercising.
This type of hearing aid is not suitable for everyone. Those with small ear canals or with severe to profound hearing loss may not benefit from this technology. The device is replaced six to eight times a year, making it slightly more expensive than a traditional hearing aid.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids treat conductive hearing loss
The system includes an implant that is inserted into the bone behind the ear and a hearing aid that fits over the implant. When sound is detected, the implant sends vibrations through the bone to the inner ear.
Bone-anchored hearing aids are suited for those with conductive hearing loss and require at least one functioning inner ear.
PE tubes help children with ear infections
This treatment is ideal for children who experience frequent middle ear infections caused by a buildup of fluid.
Small tubes, known as pressure equalization (PE) tubes are placed through the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear. Short-term tubes will fall out on their own within six to eighteen months; long-terms tubes stay in place longer and require an expert to remove them.
While PE tubes are most commonly recommended for toddlers and young children, they may also be used by adults to treat problems associated with malformations of the eardrum or Eustachian tube as well as those with a cleft palate.
A stapedectomy treats otosclerosis
This procedure is used to treat otosclerosis, a condition that causes the bones and tissue of the middle ear to harden, causing the stapes bone to become stuck in place. The bone is unable to vibrate and send sound through the ear, resulting in hearing loss.
A stapedectomy implants a prosthetic device designed to bypass the bones in the middle ear.
In order to determine if surgery is right for you, your audiologist will need to determine your type and degree of hearing loss. Contact the experts at ENT of Athens to get started today.