Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. 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’s not a smart idea. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser 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 simply something that happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some major disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main categories. 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. It may be caused by a buildup of earwax. Perhaps it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This diminishes your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to repair them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your distinct hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll have to speak with us about which is best for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. 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 transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are geared towards. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The concept is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers 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 – address your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. 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 loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing exam.