Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you might look at promising 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 start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some major disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most kinds of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. 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 kind of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally 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 tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
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 possible is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear conversations, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. 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 directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, 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 been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. New therapies seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again grow new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
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.