Every day scientists are finding new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For example, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that cautious. 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. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But there are some clear drawbacks to dealing with hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
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 apply 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 the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is usually the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be because of an accumulation of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. There are fragile hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this type of hearing loss? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common method of treating hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your unique hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and level 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 entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. 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. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
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 proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have 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. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more grow new stereocilia. 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. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. 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
Many of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing today.
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 test.