Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you don’t really need to be all that careful about your hearing because you saw some promising research about possible future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your long term wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to problems like 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. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most appropriate for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be because of a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving 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 picked up by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound typically. And once they are damaged, the hairs no longer function. This diminishes your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to mend them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with people better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. You’ll need to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your specific degree 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. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted 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 even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The idea is that these stem cells can then transform into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see 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 known as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once again create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. 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 identified by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this time. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.