New cures are always being discovered. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. For instance, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that cautious. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to link 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. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most kinds 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 enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are fragile hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear discussions, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this type of hearing loss? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. During 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 danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. 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 transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate 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 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 aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again grow new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a significant 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 scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept 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” phase.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
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 test.