Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For example, you may look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some incredible advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It doesn’t suggest 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 disadvantages. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. 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 preserve your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. 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 because of an accumulation of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking 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 (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises usually. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. 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, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you manage this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Over 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 the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your particular degree of hearing loss.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to insert this device into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The concept is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those tiny hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again grow new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend 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 discovered by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s important to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.