Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You may think that you really don’t need to be all that careful about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about prospective 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 would be unwise. Clearly, protecting your hearing now while it’s still healthy would be the better choice. Scientists are making some amazing advances when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some possible cures in the future.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. 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. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the progression 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, for most individuals, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two main classes 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 obstructed by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This kind of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to repair them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear discussions, improve your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and interact with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and, as a result, decrease your risk of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears entirely if hearing loss is total. A cochlear implant does exactly that. Surgery is performed to put 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 complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
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 aimed at. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see 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. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these therapies are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea 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.