New cures are regularly being discovered. That might be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you don’t really need to be all that vigilant about your hearing because you read some promising research about potential future cures for deafness. You’ll feel like they will likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will notice 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 remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, including some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. 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. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic condition. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll grow worse. That’s not accurate for every kind 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 down the progression of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this comes in the form of a hearing aid, which is often the optimal 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 greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, normally by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. There are tiny hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, usually by exceedingly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, how do you treat this type of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most prevalent means of managing hearing loss. They’re particularly useful because hearing aids can be specially adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and interact with people better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be prevented by wearing hearing aids (and the danger of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become a lot more common. In order to figure out 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 total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. 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 transmitted directly to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
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.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of therapy. The concept is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). Studies with mammals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy still seems going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they create stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments 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. Most people noticed a significant improvement 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 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 identifying this protein. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public right now. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.