Gradual hearing loss is a concept that most people are familiar with. Many children find themselves having a conversation with their aging parents about going to see an audiologist for a hearing test and hearing aids. For most, gradual hearing loss is just a part of the aging process.

A less known type of hearing loss is temporary hearing loss. Unlike permanent hearing loss that results from age, temporary hearing loss is not forever.

Defining temporary hearing loss

To define temporary hearing loss, permanent hearing loss must first be understood.

Permanent hearing loss is referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear is damaged. This type of hearing loss is usually caused by aging, exposure to loud noises, genetics, and head trauma or disease.

In contrast, temporary hearing loss is usually conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is caused by damage to or blockages within the middle or outer ear. Conductive hearing loss can also be permanent, but in many cases is reversible.

Causes of temporary hearing loss

There are many different possible causes of temporary hearing loss. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Impacted earwax: When earwax builds up in the ear canal, it can become compact and be difficult to remove. Never try to remove impacted earwax yourself. A trip to the doctor’s office will ensure the blockage is removed without damaging your ear.
  • Ear infections: When an infection develops in the middle ear, it can cause a buildup of fluid that prevents sound waves from passing through the ear.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause temporary hearing loss. Make sure to talk to your prescribing physician about any medication side effects you may not know about.
  • Loud noise: Temporary hearing loss can occur after a single exposure to very loud noise, such as a music concert.

Temporary hearing loss treatments

While temporary hearing loss occasionally resolves itself on its own, it’s important to visit your audiologist – especially if you cannot identify the cause. Impacted earwax, medications and ear infections all require professional intervention. Ignoring temporary hearing loss can result in worsening symptoms or permanent damage.

What if the Loss is Permanent?

If your hearing loss becomes a permanent issue, your audiologist will explore different treatment options with you. Hearing aids are the most commonly recommended solution with varying styles and sizes to meet your unique needs. These devices can be worn behind the ear (ITE), in the ear (ITE) or in the canal (ITC) to provide you with the listening experience you need.

If you suspect your hearing loss is due to a recent exposure to loud noise or are afraid it may become more permanent, the best thing you can do is contact your audiologist for an assessment.

Tags: faqs, hearing loss basics, temporary hearing loss