Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. 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 is awful
Hearing loss is just something that happens. It doesn’t indicate you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. Neglected 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.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms 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.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. 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 form of hearing loss. It may be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises usually. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. 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. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with others better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is complete. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
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 exactly what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The concept is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the production of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more grow new stereocilia. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.