New cures are always being found. That can be a good or bad thing. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably 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. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t suggest you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But there are some distinct disadvantages to dealing with hearing loss. Not only can you hear less, but the condition can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that reveals a connection between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. This doesn’t pertain to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow down the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Often, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two kinds of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two main categories. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud sound usually. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to restore these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be irreversible but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The goal of any such treatment is to let you 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.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common way of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and, as a result, decrease your danger of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll need to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is complete, a condition called deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies make use of stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those little hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear originate the creation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more grow new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Many of these innovations are encouraging. But it’s worthwhile to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing exam.