New cures are regularly being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. You might think that you don’t really have to be all that vigilant about your hearing because you read some promising research about prospective future cures for deafness. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only can you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. That’s not accurate for every form of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow the development of hearing loss. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. 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 creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. 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? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
There are many 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 degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to insert this device 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. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad idea 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 struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.