February 26, 2024

Can Hearing Loss Be Cured?

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If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss, you are not alone. Nearly 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from debilitating hearing loss. You may be wondering if there is a cure for your hearing loss. The answer depends on the results of your hearing test, which will tell your audiologist what type of hearing loss you have, and its severity.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

If your hearing loss is age-related or caused by exposure to excess noise, this falls under the type of hearing loss known as sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing loss and is caused either by the destruction of tiny hair cells in your inner ear that pick up the vibration of sound or the decay of the nerves that transmit sound from your inner ear to your brain. While there is no cure currently for this type of hearing loss to regenerate the damaged parts of the inner ear your hearing loss can be treated rather effectively with hearing aids. While hearing aids will never be exactly the same as your original hearing, they can help your brain hear the sounds it may have lost due to inner ear damage.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a blockage or injury to the outer or middle ear. This includes blockages due to tumors, impaction of excess earwax, a build-up of fluid due to allergies or infection or a tear to the eardrum. The good news about being diagnosed with conductive hearing loss is that most cases are temporary and are cured by means of treatment from a medical professional. Some of these treatments include antibiotics for ear infections, flushing of the ear canal for earwax compaction and surgery to correct inner ear injury and tumors. Because the parts of the outer and middle ear are very small and fragile you should never attempt to cure a blockage on your own as you could cause a more severe problem than before. In cases where conductive hearing loss cannot be cured or instances where the patient suffers from a mixed hearing loss of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants are used to supplement for hearing loss.

Research into Cures for Sensorineural Hearing Loss

While there is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, that has not stopped many scientists from searching for a cure. With the knowledge that some animals including baby chicken, mice and zebrafish can regrow if damaged. With this in mind, researchers have sought to replicate this behavior for humans creating a long sought-after cure for sensorineural hearing loss. One of the most promising steps in this research is utilizing our knowledge of stem cells. Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the repair response of injured tissue using stem cells. Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. It is hoped that using stem cells scientists will be able to regenerate the tiny hair cells that help us hear in the inner ear.

Dr. Stefan Heller, professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University School of Medicine has been researching using stem cells to cure hearing but they are still in the experimentation phase. The cells of the inner ear are difficult to work with and far fewer than those found in the eyes. However, with the exploration of regrowth of hair cells in the ears of mice and some birds Dr. Heller hopes to find a cure that will make curing sensorineural hearing loss a commonplace treatment.

How Hearing Aids Help You Hear

In the meantime, hearing aids have been proven over and over again to help patients suffering from hearing loss to be able to participate in conversation, and hear the world around them. Hearing aids work with your existing hearing to amplify the sounds your ear picks up and supplements sounds you would otherwise miss. If your hearing loss is severe then cochlear implants can be used to make sure you can pick up the most auditory information possible to be able to navigate the world. Hearing is a very important sense that keeps us connected to our loved ones, our bodies, and our lives. Don’t let your hearing loss go untreated and live a life full of healthy sounds.

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.

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