Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For example, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the better choice. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some amazing advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
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 penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not accurate for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is often the optimum treatment for most forms 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 enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. There are two primary categories 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 type of hearing loss. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, usually by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by fragile hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you manage this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Using a hearing aid will let you better comprehend conversations and communicate with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
Getting your own set 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 degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to insert this device in the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated 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 continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The concept is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in 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, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of 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.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.