New cures are always being found. 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 decide you don’t really have to be all that cautious. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a negative 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. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is often the ideal treatment for most types 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 improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
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 what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It may be due to a buildup of earwax. Perhaps it’s swelling 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 type of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. 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. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the one most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your distinct hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to choose from. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (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 promising.
- 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 referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers 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 – address your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.