Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you really don’t need to be very cautious about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about potential future cures for deafness. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some amazing advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two main categories. One can be cured, the other can be managed. 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. It may be due to an accumulation of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is obstructing 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 source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud sounds. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair 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. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear conversations, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your particular degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight 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 even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems a long way off.
- 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 develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of 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.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.