Every day scientists are finding new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the ideal 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 world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in forms of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It might be because of an accumulation of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up 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 irreversible form of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This decreases 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
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. 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, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent method of treating hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even delay 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 much more common. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form 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 go dormant, and they are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more grow 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. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this point. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.