New cures are regularly being found. That may be a positive or a negative. You might figure that you don’t really have to be very vigilant about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about possible future cures for deafness. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the better choice. Scientists are making some remarkable advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
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 penalized. It just… is. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal 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 takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to repair them. 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 treated. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the goal 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 deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specially calibrated for your unique hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others during your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to figure out 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 complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to insert this device in the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments use stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs in your ears). It’s not likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. 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 therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.