New cures are constantly being found. That can be a good or bad thing. You may decide that you don’t really have to be very vigilant about your hearing because you read some encouraging research about potential 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 a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some phenomenal advances on the subject of treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
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 developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Neglected hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues 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 get worse. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. 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, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two forms 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 treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by fragile hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. There’s currently no way to heal these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been 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 these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a significant improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing today.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.