New cures are always being discovered. That might be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you really don’t have to be all that vigilant about your hearing because you saw some promising research about potential 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’s not a smart idea. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you have it. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, general wellness, and mental health can be substantially impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that shows a link between social isolation and neglected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t pertain 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 maintain your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimal treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most individuals, 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two principal categories. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. There are fragile hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. 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 heal 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. Given your loss of hearing, letting you hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, 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 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. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better comprehend conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off 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 much more common. In order to identify 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 complete, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to insert this device in 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.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition called deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have totally lost your hearing.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are always being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies use stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those little hairs in your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the generation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. 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 discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding 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.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Lots of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing assessment.