Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You may decide that you don’t really need to be very vigilant about your hearing because you saw some promising research about prospective future cures for deafness. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some amazing advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not accurate for every kind 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 preserve your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It may be due to an accumulation of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation caused by an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is more permanent. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound typically. 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 heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you 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 form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly beneficial because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your unique hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others during your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
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 degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted 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 total, 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 aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, 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. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most people noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer concept 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.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.