New cures are regularly being discovered. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You might decide that you don’t really have to be all that careful about your hearing because you saw 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 exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. Scientists are making some phenomenal strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some potential cures in the future.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person or you did something wrong or you’re being penalized. It’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s going on around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
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 form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” is not the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and preserve your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is often the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be greatly improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
There are differences in kinds of hearing loss. There are two main categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a bunch of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. Whatever it is, there’s something physically stopping sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is more permanent. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, usually by overly loud sounds. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. 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 treated. The goal of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, enhancing your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the goal.
So, what are these treatment methods? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. During the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you understand conversations and communicate with others better. Many of the symptoms of social solitude can be staved off by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Having your own pair of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to determine which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
Often, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is complete. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transmits sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or total hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are frequently aimed at “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 these stem cells can then turn into new stereocilia (those little hairs inside of 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, stem cells in your ear initiate the generation of stereocilia. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, is unknown.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. Researchers are hoping that they can get a better concept 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.
Live in the moment – deal with your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are encouraging. But let’s not forget that none of them are available to the public at this time. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing test.