Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. You may figure that you don’t really need to be very careful about your hearing because you saw some promising research about potential future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. Scientists are making some amazing advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals 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 kinds
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main classes 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 obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It may be due to an accumulation of earwax. 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 type of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by delicate hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specifically tuned for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll have to speak with us about which is best for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
Often, 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. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- 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 become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more grow new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, 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 researchers have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing now.
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 assessment.