New cures are always being discovered. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you might look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice any symptoms of hearing loss.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that takes place. It doesn’t mean 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 extreme disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
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 pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal 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 types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It might be caused by a buildup of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, usually by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing 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 (known as stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces 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, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with others better. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those tiny 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 is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, 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 identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. Again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” phase.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.