Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. For example, you may look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- 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. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by overly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow 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 treated. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common way of treating hearing loss. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically calibrated for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. In order to figure out 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 total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as 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.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and 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 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 therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. 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 remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and hold out for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.