New cures are regularly being found. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you might look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that cautious. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the smarter choice. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to 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 occurs. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most kinds of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two primary categories of hearing loss. 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. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. You’ll need to talk to 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 total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device in the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated 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 still seems a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and understand 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. 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.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding 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.