Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You might decide that you really don’t have to be all that cautious about your hearing because you saw some promising research about prospective future cures for deafness. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
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 emerging which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some major disadvantages. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. 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: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s swelling from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is more permanent. Vibrations in the air are picked up by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent 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 goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and communicate with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, lower your risk 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 talk to us about which is ideal for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device 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 allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have completely lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously 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. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see 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 created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more grow new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a significant improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists 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.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s worthwhile to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.