Every day scientists are discovering new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. For example, you may look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really have to be all that careful. By the time you begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That’s not a smart idea. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some amazing strides toward successfully treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is simply something that occurs. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of the aging process. But there are some definite disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Not only do you hear less, but the disorder can affect your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even increase your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s lots of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. That’s not true for every kind of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most appropriate 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 greatly improved by these treatments.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two main categories of hearing loss. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be because of an accumulation of earwax. Possibly, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by removing the blockage (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears known as stereocilia. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are destroyed as you go through life, typically by exceedingly loud noises. And once they are damaged, the hairs don’t function. And when this happens your ability to hear becomes diminished. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal 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 let you 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 objective.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are likely the single most common method of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated 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 people better. Hearing aids can even slow down many symptoms of social isolation (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are lots of styles to pick from. 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.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to bypass the ears altogether if hearing loss is total. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is performed to put this device in the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred directly to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition known as deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has completely gone, there are still treatment options available.
Scientists are continuously working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
These new advances are often 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 little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see 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 become inactive, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. 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 comprehend speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these treatments will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. 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 it’s important to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. Which means that it’s a good idea to live in the here and now. Protect your hearing today.
Don’t try to hold out for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.