New cures are always being discovered. That could be a positive or a negative. You might think that you really don’t have to be all that cautious about your hearing because you saw some promising research about possible future cures for deafness. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the better choice. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your long term health. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. 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 optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It may be due to an accumulation of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound typically. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t make 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 treated. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear conversations, increase 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 common means of managing hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specifically calibrated for your distinct hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and interact with others during your daily life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, reduced your danger of dementia and depression).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to choose from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
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. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The concept 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 promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. 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 before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Protect your hearing now.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing assessment.