Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You might figure that you don’t really have to be very cautious about your hearing because you read some encouraging research about prospective future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t pertain to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there’s 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. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two main categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type 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. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises usually. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. 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? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your distinct hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social isolation (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll have to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted directly to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering 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.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are promising. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing assessment.