New cures are regularly being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that cautious. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some incredible advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of research exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t apply 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 managed.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the ideal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently 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
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible 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 you can given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear discussions, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you manage this form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your distinct hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with others better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to choose from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is complete. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Live in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
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 exam.