Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That could be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that cautious. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That wouldn’t be wise. Without a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some amazing advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. Lots of research exists that shows a connection between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not accurate for every type of hearing loss, but more on that below. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main types
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two primary classes. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because something gets in the way and obstructs your ear canal. It might be due to a buildup of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- 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 interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this occurs your ability to hear becomes impaired. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to 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 goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single 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 useful. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and interact with others better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is performed to insert this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted straight to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or complete 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 continuously being researched by scientists.
These new advances are often geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those tiny hairs inside of your ears). It’s not 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 produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer idea of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by recognizing this protein. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are promising. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this point. So it’s a bad idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.