Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You may think that you really don’t need to be all that careful about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about potential future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a good idea. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that takes place. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some distinct disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, general 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. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t pertain to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. 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. Possibly it’s a clump of earwax (a little 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 capable of getting to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, usually by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss. They’re particularly beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically tuned for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social isolation (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to pick from. You’ll have to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your particular level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again grow new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most people noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
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.