New cures are always being found. That might be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you start showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to safeguard your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some extreme drawbacks. Not only can you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your long term health. Untreated hearing loss can even result in an increased risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there’s no cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every type of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Often, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the ideal treatment for most types 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.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two principal classes. 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. It may be caused by a buildup of earwax. Perhaps, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is obstructing your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be able to get to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, normally by eliminating the blockage (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss is irreversible. Vibrations in the air are sensed by tiny hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises usually. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to mend them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Common treatments include the following.
Most likely, the one most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and interact with others better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to choose from. In order to figure out which model is suited to your taste and level of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are continuously 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 geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the production of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then called progenitor cells. New therapies seek to reactivate these progenitor cells, stimulating them to once more create new stereocilia. This particular novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most patients, in their ability to hear and understand speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers 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 have your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your hearing loss. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and hold out for that miracle cure, call us today to schedule a hearing exam.