Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For example, you might look at encouraging 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 begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the better choice. Scientists are making some phenomenal advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that happens. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main 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. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by overly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. This diminishes your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to repair them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to speak with us about which is best for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
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 solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New therapies seek 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 patients, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. This treatment is really 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 promising. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s smart 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, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.