Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You may think that you really don’t have to be very vigilant about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about possible 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 wouldn’t be wise. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some major disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term health. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It might be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Perhaps it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, normally by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is more permanent. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny 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 typically. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
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 purpose of treatment. The objective is to help you hear conversations, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by using hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your danger of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become a lot more common. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is used to put this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously 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 utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the generation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand 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. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.