Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For example, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that cautious. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some incredible advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But there are some distinct disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of research exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every type of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be because of an accumulation of earwax. 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 form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. There are tiny hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises usually. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most prevalent means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with others better. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your particular degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. 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 directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again grow new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” phase.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s wise to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.