Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you may look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the smarter choice. Scientists are making some incredible strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some clear drawbacks to dealing with hearing loss. Not only can you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. 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. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the ideal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It might be because of a buildup of earwax. Perhaps it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (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 sensed by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises usually. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This diminishes your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to repair them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that 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. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become a lot more common. 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.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to insert 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.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions 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 often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, 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 become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a substantial 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 essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a better concept 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
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing exam.