New cures are always being discovered. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. For example, you might look at promising 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 begin showing symptoms of hearing loss, you think, they’ll have found the cure for deafness.
That would be unwise. Without question, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. There is some amazing research coming out which is revealing some awesome strides toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss is awful
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But there are some clear drawbacks to experiencing hearing loss. 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. Untreated hearing loss can even lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. Lots of research exists that reveals a link between social isolation and untreated hearing loss.
Usually, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative condition. This means that there’s no cure and, as time passes, it’ll grow worse. That’s not true for every form of hearing loss, but more on that in a bit. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
We can help you protect your levels of hearing and slow the progression of hearing loss. Hearing aids are frequently the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most forms of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most individuals but there’s no cure. And your quality of life will be immensely improved by these treatments.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two main categories of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be treated. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss takes place because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It may be caused by an accumulation of earwax. Maybe it’s swelling from an ear infection. Whatever it is, there’s something physically blocking sound waves from traveling up to your inner ear. This kind 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 tiny hairs in your ear (known as stereocilia) that sense minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is capable of interpreting these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud noises usually. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s presently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Sensorineural hearing loss treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. 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, improving your situational awareness, and letting you hear conversations is the objective.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of managing hearing loss is hearing aids. They’re particularly beneficial because hearing aids can be specifically adjusted for your unique hearing loss. Using a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and interact with others over the course of your daily life. Many of the symptoms of social isolation can be prevented by using hearing aids (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to pick 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 total, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears entirely. A cochlear implant does exactly that. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and converts those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transmitted 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 gone away completely, there are still treatment options available.
New novel ways of treating hearing loss are continuously being researched by scientists.
In the past, curing hearing loss has been impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are aimed at. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: These therapies utilize 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). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some kind of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still going to be a while.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being created by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by waking up the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been tried in humans, and the outcomes seem encouraging. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long it will be before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been discovered by scientists that is critical for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better idea 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.
Don’t wait to have your hearing loss treated
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are available yet. So it’s not a good plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Be proactive about safeguarding your hearing.
A miracle cure likely isn’t coming soon, so if you’re struggling with hearing loss, give us a call to schedule your hearing assessment.