Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that cautious. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the better choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a clump 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 might be, sound waves won’t be able to get 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 type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible 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 manage this type of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll have to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. 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 directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the production of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more create new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. 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 treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.