Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. You might think that you really don’t have to be all that cautious about your hearing because you read some encouraging research about potential future cures for deafness. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some remarkable advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. 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 overall wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. There are two primary categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can certainly be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises usually. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. 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, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll have to talk to us about which is best for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant 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 results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying 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 therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.