New cures are always being discovered. That could be a positive or a negative. For example, 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 start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. 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 stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It’s just part of getting older. But there are some definite disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every form 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 protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the ideal 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
Not all hearing loss is identical. 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: This kind of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps, 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 can indeed be cured, normally by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you manage this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. In order to determine 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 complete. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- 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 tiny hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend 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 identified by researchers that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding 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 get your hearing loss treated
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are available 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 struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.