Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But there are some distinct drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Neglected hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. 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 become damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. 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 treated. 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 allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically tuned for your distinct hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (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 much more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your particular degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does exactly that. Surgery is used to put this device in the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally 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 exactly what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- 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 is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. 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 coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing exam.