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 cautious. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some incredible strides 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 just something that takes place. It doesn’t indicate you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. 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 maintain your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this type of hearing loss. It might be because of an accumulation of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it may 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 removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s currently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you manage this form of hearing loss? Here are some common 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 make out conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social isolation (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll have to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your particular degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is used to insert this device into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long 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 discovering this protein, researchers will get a better concept 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 – treat your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.