Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you may look at encouraging 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 probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Not only can you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of research exists that reveals a link 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, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t pertain to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are usually 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are picked up by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal 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 permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you manage this form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common method of managing hearing loss. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll have to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. 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 total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The concept is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Some of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to stress 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.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.