Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you don’t really have to be very cautious about your hearing because you read some promising research about prospective future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the smarter choice. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
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 penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the ideal treatment for most forms 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. There are two primary categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. 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 goal.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Prevalent treatments include the following.
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. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. 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 exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize 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’s not likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, 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 therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most people noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are promising. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.