Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some remarkable advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that takes place. 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 major disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your long term health. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the ideal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two main classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. 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 due to a buildup of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is more permanent. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can 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? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to pick from. 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.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). It’s not likely that we will see 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 creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they 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. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering 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.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. 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 coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.