New cures are always being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you might 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. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Clearly, safeguarding 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, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that takes place. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. 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 down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimal 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 lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny 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 sound typically. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to mend them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk 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 need to speak with us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are always 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 geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those little 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 is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new therapies 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 patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” phase.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.