Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For example, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure 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 notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a smart idea. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that takes place. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Not only can you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most types 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is more permanent. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by overly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. 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. 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 letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others during your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. In order to figure out 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 total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). It’s not 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 go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to stress that none of them are ready yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing exam.