Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For example, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need 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 wouldn’t be wise. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. This means that there isn’t any cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most kinds of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s inflammation from 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 type of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound typically. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to insert this device into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. 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, encouraging them to once more grow new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” phase.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
Don’t try and hold out for that miracle cure, call us now to schedule a hearing exam.