Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You may think that you really don’t have to be all that careful about your hearing because you read some encouraging research about possible future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a smart idea. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the wiser choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some clear drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. Not only can you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t pertain to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t 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 commonly the ideal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. 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 obstructs your ear canal. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is more permanent. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound typically. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll need to speak with us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously 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: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in 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 the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and hold out for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.