Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you really don’t need to be very cautious about your hearing because you read some promising research about potential future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some amazing advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that happens. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain 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 preserve your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Frequently, this comes in the form of 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 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 identical. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be due to a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind 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. Regrettably, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your distinct hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and interact 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).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. A cochlear implant does exactly that. Surgery is performed to insert this device in the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert 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 options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t 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 initiate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then referred to as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more grow new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. 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 exam.