New cures are constantly being found. That can be a good thing and a 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 begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some amazing strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the ideal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in forms 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 type of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is more permanent. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose 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, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you treat this type of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the one most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Using a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and interact with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by using hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll have to talk to 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 entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (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 created by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more create new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.