New cures are constantly being found. That might be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really need to be all that cautious. By the time you start exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have discovered the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you can. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It doesn’t indicate you’re a bad person or you did something wrong or you’re being punished. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some extreme disadvantages. Not only do you hear less, but the condition can impact your social life, your mental health, and your overall wellness. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. Lots of evidence exists that reveals a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
In general, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there’s no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
We can help you maintain your levels of hearing and slow the development of hearing loss. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is commonly the optimum treatment for most forms of hearing loss. So, for most people, 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 kinds of hearing loss. 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: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this kind of hearing loss. Possibly it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Maybe it’s inflammation from an ear infection. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound usually. And once they’re damaged, the hairs don’t function. This reduces your ability to hear. Your body won’t naturally regrow these hairs and we currently have no way to heal them. When you lose them, it’s forever.
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, letting you hear as much as possible is the purpose of treatment. Keeping you functioning as independently as possible, improving your situational awareness, and allowing you to hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Prevalent treatments include the following.
Most likely, the one most common way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Many of the symptoms of social solitude 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 pick from and they have become a lot more common. You’ll have to speak with us about which is ideal for you and your specific level of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. Surgery is used to put this device in the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, 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 often aimed at “curing” hearing loss in ways that have previously been impossible. Here are a few of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments utilize stem cells from your own body. The concept is that new stereocilia can be generated by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in your ears). It’s not 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. 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 waking up the progenitor cells. Encouraging results for these new therapies have come from early human trials. Most people noticed a substantial 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 discovered by researchers that is crucial for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to begin to grow back. This treatment is very much still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – address your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But let’s remember 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.
Don’t try to wait for that miracle cure, call us as soon as you can to schedule a hearing exam.