New cures are regularly being discovered. That may be a positive or a negative. You may decide that you really don’t need to be very cautious about your hearing because you saw some encouraging research about possible 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 a doubt, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some remarkable strides on the subject of treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
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, overall health, and mental health can be substantially impacted by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s happening around you. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to connect neglected hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not accurate for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow the development of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum 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 improving your quality of life.
Two forms of hearing loss
There are differences in types of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in two main categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. It may be caused by a buildup of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are picked up by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Regrettably, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by overly loud noises. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This decreases your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as you can is the goal of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you treat this form of hearing loss? Common treatments include the following.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common method of managing hearing loss. They’re especially beneficial because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your distinct hearing loss. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you hear conversations and communicate with people better. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be staved off by using hearing aids (and, as a result, reduced your danger 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 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. Surgery is performed to insert this device into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is complete, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently geared towards “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously proven impossible. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of treatment. The concept is that new stereocilia can be created by these stem cells (those tiny hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will have 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. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then known as progenitor cells. New therapies aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more create new stereocilia. This specific novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the results seem encouraging. Most patients noticed a significant improvement in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have identified a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Researchers 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 – treat your hearing loss now
Lots of these innovations are promising. But let’s remember that none of them are available to the public right now. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us now to schedule a hearing exam.