Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For instance, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that cautious. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a good idea. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. That’s not accurate for every form of hearing loss, but more on that below. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. 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 objective.
So, how do you manage this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the one most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your unique hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others during your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
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 totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely 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 transform into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of 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 very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – address 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 point. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. 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.