Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. For instance, you may look at encouraging new research in the arena of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will probably have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That would be unwise. Without a doubt, it’s better to protect your hearing while you have it. There is some exciting research emerging which is revealing some awesome advances toward successfully treating hearing loss.
It’s no fun to lose your hearing
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It’s just part of getting older. But there are some distinct disadvantages to experiencing hearing loss. Your social life, general health, and mental health can be considerably affected by hearing loss, not to mention your inability to hear what’s taking place around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with neglected hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to connect untreated hearing loss to problems such as social isolation.
Usually, hearing loss is a persistent and degenerative problem. So, as time passes, it will continue to get worse and there is no cure. This doesn’t pertain to every kind 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 progression of your hearing loss and maintain your current levels of hearing. Hearing aids are often the form of treatment that will be most ideal for most types of hearing loss. So, for most people, there’s no cure, but there are treatments. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to improving your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main forms
Not all hearing loss is the same. Hearing loss comes in two main 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 happens because something gets in the way and blocks your ear canal. It might be due to an accumulation of earwax. Maybe it’s swelling caused by an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it might be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss can indeed be cured, typically by removing the obstruction (or treating whatever is creating the obstruction in the first place).
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form of hearing loss. Vibrations in the air are sensed by delicate hairs in your ears called stereocilia. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs become damaged, by loud sound usually. And these hairs stop working after they get damaged. This decreases your ability to hear. Your body doesn’t naturally regrow these hairs and we presently have no way to heal them. 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 purpose of any such treatment is to let you hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The goal is to help you hear discussions, enhance your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment methods? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Hearing aids are probably the single most common means of treating hearing loss. They’re especially useful because hearing aids can be specially tuned for your distinct hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid will allow you to better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even forestall many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Getting your own set of hearing aids is extremely common, and there are many styles to choose from. In order to identify which model is suited to your taste and degree of hearing loss, you’ll need to come see us for a consultation.
When hearing loss is complete, it sometimes makes sense to bypass the ears altogether. That’s what a cochlear implant does. This device is surgically inserted into the ear. This device directly transfers sound, which it has translated into electrical energy, to your cochlear nerve. This enables your brain to translate those signals into sounds.
Cochlear implants are usually used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment options even if you have completely lost your hearing.
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 geared towards. Some of these advances include:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The idea is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those little hairs in your ears). It isn’t likely that we will see prescription gene therapy for some time, but for now, studies with animals are promising.
- Progenitor cell activation: So the stereocilia in your ear are being produced by your body’s stem cells. Once the stereocilia develop, the stem cells go dormant, and they are then known as progenitor cells. These new therapies are stimulating the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. This specific novel therapy has been used in humans, and the results seem encouraging. There was a significant improvement, for most patients, 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: Some researchers have discovered a protein that’s critical to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by identifying this protein, researchers will get a better idea of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Once again, this is one of those therapies that’s more in the “drawing board” phase than the “widely available” stage.
Live in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a lot of promise in these innovations. But it’s important to emphasize that none of them are available yet. So it’s a bad plan to wait to get treatment for your loss of hearing. Protect your hearing now.
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 exam.