Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. You might figure that you really don’t need to be very vigilant about your hearing because you read some encouraging research about potential future cures for deafness. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the smarter choice. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. 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 wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain to every type 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 progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two main categories. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specifically tuned for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. 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. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The concept is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (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, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept 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.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to stress that none of them are ready yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. 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 test.