Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good or bad thing. You might decide that you don’t really have to be all that cautious about your hearing because you saw some promising research about prospective 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. Obviously, protecting your hearing now while it’s still in good shape would be the smarter choice. Scientists are making some remarkable strides when it comes to treating hearing loss though, and that includes some possible cures in the future.
It isn’t any fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is simply something that happens. It’s not inevitably because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But developing hearing loss has some serious disadvantages. Your social life, overall wellness, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Neglected hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will keep getting worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain to every kind 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.
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 there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a lot of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is identical. Hearing loss comes in two primary categories. You can treat one and the other can be cured. Here’s what you need to know:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be because of a buildup of earwax. Maybe, an ear infection is causing inflammation. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can certainly be cured, typically by eliminating the obstruction (or treating whatever is causing the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more irreversible type of hearing loss. There are delicate hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be translated to sound by your brain. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop functioning after they become damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t create new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The purpose of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as possible given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some common treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common means of managing hearing loss. Hearing aids can be specially calibrated to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. 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 isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. You’ll have to talk to us about which is best for you and your specific degree of hearing loss.
When hearing loss is total, it often makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does just that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has converted into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions 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 aimed at. Here are a number of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: These treatments make use of stem cells from your own body. The idea is that new stereocilia can be produced by these stem cells (those delicate hairs in your ears). It’s not likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for a while, but for now, studies with animals are showing promise.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. New treatments aim to reactivate these progenitor cells, encouraging them to once more create new stereocilia. Encouraging outcomes for these novel therapies have come from early human trials. 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 therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some scientists have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. Scientists are hoping that they can get a clearer concept of how to get these stereocilia to grow back by identifying this protein. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Don’t wait to get your hearing loss treated
Many of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to emphasize that none of them are ready yet. So it’s not a good idea to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure isn’t likely to be coming soon, so if you’re coping with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing test.