Every day scientists are finding new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that careful. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Obviously, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of the aging process. But there are some definite drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall health. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, as time passes, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not accurate for every type of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, 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 identical. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises usually. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as possible is the goal of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you deal with this form of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and interact with others during your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your risk of dementia and depression).
Getting your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. You’ll need to talk to us about which is ideal for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to insert this device into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. 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.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The concept is that these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- 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. New treatments seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more grow new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, scientists will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing now.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.