NIHL: What Is It and Can It Be Reversed?

Hearing loss is a complex phenomenon and in many cases, an irreversible one. However, certain types of hearing loss, like the noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), may, in fact, be reversible. Therefore, there is a chance even for those who were exposed for long periods to loud noises to regain their ability to hear. Below we have some more information regarding the reversibility of this phenomenon and what can patients with noise-induced hearing loss recover all their capacities.

1. How does noise-induced hearing loss appear?

The main way in which noise-induced hearing loss can be acquired is, obviously, by exposure to loud noises. Some professions that risk NIHL are:

  • Construction workers;
  • Soldiers;
  • Musicians.

These are only a few of the professions that can experience damage to the internal ear and ear nerves through exposure to loud noises. However, everybody that is working in a noisy environment can suffer this type of damage.

2. NIHL – Reversible or not?

Previous research claimed that if the internal ear is affected, the process is irreversible. However, evidence suggests that damage to the nerve cells caused by environmental factors such as loud noises, may, in fact, be reversible. As the researchers made this breakthrough discovery, opportunities for development of new therapies and medicine become a realistic prospect. The prospect of developing cochlear reconstruction surgeries is one of the most appreciated possibilities when it comes to restoring noise-induced ear damage if the intervention is performed within recommended time parameters.

3. Who will benefit from this breakthrough?

War-zone veterans and civilians working in noisy environments will undoubtedly find this discovery being more than good news. However, fast action should be taken as soon as the damage appears. It is advisable to schedule yearly screenings to detect any type of damage in a timely fashion, so the treatment has good results. In a veteran’s case, action should be taken immediately, as they are a subject to a continuously increasing number of perforated eardrums, hearing loss or tinnitus. As a result, these amazing findings will benefit the population, regardless of their profession.

4. What is the status of the development?

Researchers are already searching for ways in which to regenerate the cells of the cochlea and the small hair follicles in the ear. However, the load of work to find a reliable therapy is enormous. On the other hand, the developments in the pharmaceutical industry may provide a reliable solution in a relatively short interval.

5. How to prevent NIHL?

Until further developments, specialists recommend avoiding loud noises exposure and take some prevention actions as well.  If you work in a noisy environment, never forget about protection equipment. Although in many industries this is mandatory, certain workers seem to forget about its importance. Yearly, book a screening appointment to detect any type of issues at an early stage. These are some of the best prevention tips one could put into practice.

[expand title = “References”]

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss#2. Date accessed November 2017

The Global Burden of Occupational Hearing Loss. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.20223/full. Date accessed November 2017

Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss. https://www.deafhear.ie/DHFiles/docs/Noise%20Exposure%20and%20Hearing%20Loss.pdf. Date accessed November 2017

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