New cures are always being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that cautious. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some amazing advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that takes place. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every kind 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 down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
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 managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This diminishes your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
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, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your distinct hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and interact with others better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many 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 have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (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. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. This treatment is really 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 encouraging. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.