Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But there are some definite disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t apply to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most types 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 forms of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two main categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It may be because of a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are delicate 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 damaged as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of managing hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to insert this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions 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 been impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
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 exam.