Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You may decide that you don’t really have to be all that careful about your hearing because you read some promising research about possible future cures for deafness. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be substantially impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are picked up by fragile hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t create 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 managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become much more common. You’ll need 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 altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- 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 referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, 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: Some scientists have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow 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
Lots of these innovations are promising. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public right now. 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 struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.