Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That may be a positive or a negative. For example, 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 careful. 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 a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some amazing strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad 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 major disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative condition. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. 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 protect your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is often the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
There are differences in types of hearing loss. There are two primary categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It might be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the purpose 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 form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. 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.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s exactly what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). It’s not 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 produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. New therapies seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again grow new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, 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: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing now.
Don’t try and wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.