Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you really don’t need to be very cautious about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about potential future cures for deafness. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
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’s just part of the aging process. But there are some clear disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, general 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 raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems like 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. This doesn’t apply to every kind 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 treated.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most kinds of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Perhaps, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by fragile hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t make 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. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal 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 strategies? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by using hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
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 have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does exactly that. Surgery is performed to put this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “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 type of treatment. The concept is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those little hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a substantial 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: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are available yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.