Can You Heal Your Hearing Loss?
Published: August 20, 2021
Updated: February 4, 2022
It can be distressing to lose one of your most vital senses. Is healing hearing loss a possibility? You may not want to ‘hear’ it, but most times hearing cannot be reversed naturally. The first step to determining if there is a possibility of healing your hearing is to consult a healthcare provider. Who will determine what is causing your hearing problem and the type of hearing loss you have.
What are the different types of hearing loss?
Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer and/or middle part of the ear. Impacted ear wax and middle ear infections are common causes of conductive hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner part of the ear; that is the organ of hearing (cochlea) or to the nerve that transmits information from the cochlea to the brain (auditory nerve). When sound enters the ear and vibrates the cochlea, tiny hair cells change the vibrations into electrical signals that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. Cochlear hearing loss occurs when the hair cells become damaged from the aging process or noise exposure, among other causes.
Mixed hearing loss is caused by damage to the outer and/or middle ear and the inner ear. For example, a person with age-related hearing loss and a middle ear infection may have a mixed hearing loss.
Can you naturally heal a conductive hearing loss?
Earwax is natural and usually makes its way out of the ear canal from movement when we talk and chew. Sometimes it can become impacted and plug the ear canal. Impacted earwax can cause discomfort and a noticeable conductive hearing loss. Here’s where natural remedies may help.
Putting slightly warmed oil such as olive oil or sweet oil in your ear canal can soften the earwax and help it move out of the ear canal. Even if it does not make its way out of the ear by itself, it will soften the wax and make it easier for a doctor to remove. It is important to consult a healthcare provider before putting anything in your ear.
Middle ear infections occur when infected fluid builds up behind the eardrum in the middle ear. If an ear infection does not resolve by itself within 3 days, it is best to get medical treatment as complications can occur if it is left untreated. Many natural remedies are said to help relieve pain associated with middle ear infections. A popular remedy on the web is to put a mixture of olive oil and ginger and/or garlic in the ear canal. Ginger is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and garlic pain-relieving and antibiotic properties. These remedies may reduce pain but do not treat the infection-causing hearing loss. They may do more harm than good if you have a hole in your eardrum. A safer alternative to relieve the pain is to place a cold pack or heat pack over the ear.
Can you naturally heal a sensorineural hearing loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss rarely heals naturally, but there are exceptions. A rare condition called ‘idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss’ (SSNHL) is one of the few conditions where hearing loss may sometimes recover within weeks by itself or with treatment. People can also lose their hearing temporarily after being exposed to very high noise levels (called a ‘temporary threshold shift’). The hearing may return to normal by itself within 24 hours.
Repeated exposure to noise or a single loud sound can however cause permanent hearing loss. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and cannot be restored or healed. Once the tiny hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, they can’t be repaired. While these cells are nothing like body hair, it can be useful to think of them similarly; just as we cannot undo a break or split on a strand of hair, we cannot undo the damage to the hair cells in the ear.
There are claims that natural supplements can improve sensorineural hearing loss. Most research on the usefulness of these supplements focuses on treating SSNHL which sometimes recovers by itself. This is rare. A lot of research focuses on whether natural supplements prevent noise-induced hearing loss in animals. These studies are popular because researchers can create a hearing loss with noise and compare the hearing levels of animals that have or haven’t taken the supplement. The research also focuses on whether supplements prevent hearing loss caused by drugs that are toxic to the ear (ototoxicity) in humans. These studies are popular because researchers can compare the hearing levels of people who are already taking ototoxic drugs for life-threatening illnesses who have or haven’t taken the supplement. Here is what the research says about some of the natural supplements that claim to help with sensorineural hearing loss.
Ginkgo Biloba is a herbal supplement made from the leaves of one of the oldest tree species native to China, which may improve blood circulation. It may be believed to have positive effects on hearing because a healthy blood supply to the delicate cochlea is important. Studies show that it may be effective in treating the early stages of hearing loss caused by noise exposure in animals and may prevent ototoxicity in humans. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence that it can heal the existing hearing loss.
Essential oils are concentrated liquids made from plants. They are not swallowed but inhaled or rubbed onto the skin. Some people claim that putting essential oils in your ear can help with sensorineural hearing loss. A concoction that has made its rounds on the web includes Cajuput, tea tree, lavender, and geranium oil. Helichrysum oil has also been suggested. Putting anything in your ear can be harmful and there is no scientific evidence that essential oils improve hearing.
Cannabis (CBD) oil is made from the marijuana or hemp plant. It is best known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. The cells in the brain that respond to CBD oil are found in the part of the brain that first receives signals from the cochlea. This makes researchers hope that it has positive effects on hearing but unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence that CBD can heal the existing hearing loss.
Magnesium is a mineral that the body needs to keep healthy. It helps the bones, muscles, and nerves function properly. Animal studies show that it may be effective in preventing hearing loss caused by noise exposure. Human studies show that higher levels of magnesium are associated with better hearing. While magnesium may help prevent hearing loss, there is little scientific evidence to show that it can heal the existing hearing loss.
Zinc is another essential mineral that the body needs to help the immune system function properly. There is less recent research on the effects of zinc on hearing but studies from the 1980s suggest that zinc may also help prevent hearing loss but not restore existing hearing loss.
Folic acid is a form of B vitamin (B9). It helps the body make new blood cells. Research suggests that a lack of folic acid may lead to hearing loss and that it may help prevent or slow down the hearing loss. Again, the evidence is lacking that it can heal the existing hearing loss.
Can you naturally prevent further damage to your hearing?
Finally, some good news! The research is mixed, but some of the natural supplements mentioned above may have protective properties against hearing loss. If you were looking to heal your hearing naturally, you probably dismissed the idea of a hearing aid. Believe it or not, hearing aids are not only your best chance at having normal hearing, but they may also prevent further damage to your hearing.
Healing hearing loss may not be a possibility but luckily you may be able to prevent further hearing loss and effectively treat the one you have.