Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you may look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some incredible advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Neglected hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. 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 treated.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by fragile hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your distinct hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll have to speak with us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. 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 transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those tiny hairs in your ears). It’s not 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 originate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they create 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 results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s worthwhile 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 now.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.