Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For instance, you may look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But there are some clear drawbacks to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most kinds 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Possibly it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s inflammation from an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. This reduces your ability to hear. 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 possible is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear conversations, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your danger of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll have to speak with us about which is best for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. 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: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
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 smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.