To try to find out if there's a cure for your condition. To seek comfort in the question of whether or not there's any way to reverse your impairment. 

One of the most common questions we hear is whether or not the inner ear can repair itself.

The short answer? No. Not on its own, and not spontaneously.

If you're suffering from noise-related hearing loss, there's very little you can do aside from avoiding scenarios that might cause further damage to your ear. The hair cells responsible for transmitting information via the auditory nerve, known as auditory stereocilia, are extremely fragile, as are the other mechanisms of the inner ear. 

Short bursts of traumatic sound (generally anything above 90 decibels) may result in temporary hearing loss. When exposed to sound outside the safe range of hearing, it flattens the auditory stereocilia. Assuming you aren't subjected to further noise, the hair cells will generally regain their shape after several days. 

This is likely where the idea that the inner ear can heal itself originated. Unfortunately, no such luck. After prolonged exposure to traumatic noise, the auditory stereocilia become permanently damaged or deformed.

That doesn't mean all hope is lost, however. Over the past several years, we've seen the emergence of some fascinating research into the regeneration of damaged hair cells. It may be impossible to repair damaged or destroyed auditory stereocilia, but growing entirely new cells?

That shows promise.

There are a few possible avenues through which we might eventually be able to 'repair' damage to the inner ear. The first, detailed in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience,  involves gene therapy. By identifying the genes that stimulate the growth of hair cells in other areas of the body, researchers hope to eventually apply them to the inner ear. 

An equally promising line of research, published in the scientific journal eLife, involves examining other species that exhibit hair cell regeneration, such as birds and amphibians. Although this capability was discovered more than 30 years ago, the mechanics of it remained a mystery. Replicating it in mammals was more or less impossible. 

Recent experiments with mice and rats, however, have succeeded in applying growth-promoting molecules, known as trophic factors, to the inner ear. 

Although both of the methods detailed above are a long way from being approved for human usage, it's still confirmed evidence that damage to the inner ear need not be permanent. And it should serve to inspire a glimmer of hope in anyone suffering from hearing loss. Hope that perhaps one day in the future, the world around them will no longer be silent.