New cures are regularly being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides on the subject of treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
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 punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Untreated hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It may be because of a buildup of earwax. Perhaps it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is more permanent. There are fragile hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent 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 you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people 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).
Having your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Sometimes, 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. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, 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 researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. 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 great deal of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
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 exam.