Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you don’t really have to be all that cautious about your hearing because you read some promising research about prospective future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the optimal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. 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 kind of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common means of managing hearing loss. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by using hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk 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 determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have completely lost your hearing.
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 geared towards. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.