New cures are constantly being found. That may be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some phenomenal advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some clear disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t apply to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two main classes of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, usually by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t create 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. The goal of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. You’ll need to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is complete. That’s what a cochlear implant does. 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 allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of 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 the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a substantial 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 critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. 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 exam.