New cures are constantly being discovered. That might be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you don’t really have to be all that careful about your hearing because you read some promising research about potential future cures for deafness. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the wiser choice. Scientists are making some amazing strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. 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 kind of hearing loss. It may be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Perhaps it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. The objective is to help you hear conversations, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common way of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, 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 options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate 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 a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. New therapies seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better 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.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this point. 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 now to schedule a hearing exam.