Every day scientists are finding new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you really don’t need to be very vigilant about your hearing because you read some promising research about possible future cures for deafness. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term health. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t pertain to every form 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 down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum 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 forms of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two primary classes 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 kind of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by overly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to mend them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear discussions, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose 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.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). It’s not likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. 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. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies 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 identifying this protein, researchers 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
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.