Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You might figure that you don’t really have to be very careful about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about prospective future cures for deafness. 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 question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some major drawbacks. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain to every kind 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.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most kinds of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Possibly it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Possibly, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by fragile hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs no longer function. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to mend them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal 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, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become much more common. You’ll have to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It’s not likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, 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 identified a protein that’s critical 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. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are promising. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us now to schedule a hearing exam.