New cures are constantly being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. You may figure that you don’t really need to be all that vigilant about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about possible future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some amazing strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of evidence exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. But “no cure” isn’t 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. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds 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: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form 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. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently 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 treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent method of managing hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, reduced your risk of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll need to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your particular degree 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. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called 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.
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 precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- 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 known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a significant 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 discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. 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
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to stress that none of them are available yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Protect your hearing today.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.