New cures are constantly being discovered. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure 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 exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some amazing 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 just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some definite drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t apply to every type 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 down the development of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be due to a buildup of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to repair them. 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 you can is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you manage this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Using a hearing aid will let you better comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables 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 even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea 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 see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- 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 called progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes 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 treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by researchers that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s wise 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.