New cures are always being found. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you may look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you begin exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the wiser choice. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But there are some definite disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, over time, it will continue to get 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.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimal treatment 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
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: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. It might be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, usually by removing the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. There are delicate 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. Regrettably, these hairs are damaged as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
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 let you 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 objective.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the one most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. 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 the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are many 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 particular level of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into 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 enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions 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 exactly what new advances are geared towards. 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 created by these stem cells (those little 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 going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the generation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- 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 idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.