Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that cautious. 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 question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t indicate 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 experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. Lots of research exists that shows a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two primary 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 blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It may be because of a buildup of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called 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, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear conversations, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent means of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by using hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device into 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.
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.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The concept is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the generation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us now to schedule a hearing exam.