New cures are constantly being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that cautious. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a smart idea. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the better choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not accurate for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the progression of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two forms of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to repair them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible 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. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, how do you treat this type of hearing loss? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common way of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and interact with others better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (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 determine 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 sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have completely lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate 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 is probably still going to be a while.
- 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 become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. 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.