New cures are regularly being discovered. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you may look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But there are some distinct drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the ideal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
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. The objective is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with others better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. You’ll need to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. 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.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). Studies with animals (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 the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New therapies seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. 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: Some scientists have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing exam.