Every day scientists are finding new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For example, you may look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a good idea. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the better choice. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that takes place. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two principal categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, usually by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, usually by overly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to mend them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become a lot more common. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a better concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.