Every day scientists are coming up with 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 cautious. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Clearly, safeguarding your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the wiser choice. There is some exciting research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t suggest you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to problems like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will keep getting 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” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the ideal treatment for most types of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two primary classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is eliminated.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This form of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent 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. The objective is to help you hear conversations, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common way of managing 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 comprehend conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
There are many different styles of hearing aid to pick from and they have become much more common. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll have to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is used to insert this device in the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are always 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 utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then called progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once again create new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a substantial improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these therapies are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by researchers that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, scientists 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.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s wise 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 as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.