New cures are always being found. That may be a positive or a negative. You might decide that you really don’t need to be all that cautious about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about possible 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. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the better choice. Scientists are making some amazing advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just something that happens. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But there are some clear disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t 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. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is often 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 greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two main 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 form of hearing loss. It might be because of a buildup of earwax. Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Regrettably, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently 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
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common means of treating 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 hear conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is used to insert this device in the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have completely lost your hearing.
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 been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells become inactive after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a clearer idea 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.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to stress that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.