New cures are regularly being found. That can be a good or bad thing. You may decide that you really don’t need to be all that careful about your hearing because you read some promising research about possible future cures for deafness. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that happens. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably affected 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. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t pertain to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Often, 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 your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear conversations, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common way of managing hearing loss. They’re especially 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 understand conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. 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.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those little 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 produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better concept 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
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. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.