Every day scientists are finding new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For example, you might look at encouraging 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 most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a good idea. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the better choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only can you hear less, but the condition 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. Lots of research exists that shows a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. 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 blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is more permanent. Vibrations in the air are picked up by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear discussions, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of treating hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your distinct hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social isolation (and the risk 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. 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.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. This enables 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 completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently 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 turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- 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 known as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people 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 identified by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Live in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are promising. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
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.