New cures are always being discovered. That could be a positive or a negative. For example, you may look at encouraging new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you decide you don’t really need to be all that careful. You’ll feel like they will most likely have a cure for deafness by the time you will exhibit any symptoms of hearing loss.
That wouldn’t be wise. 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 advances toward effectively treating hearing loss.
Hearing loss stinks
Hearing loss is just a fact of life. It’s not necessarily because of something you did wrong. It just… is. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be substantially affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. Untreated hearing loss can even result in a greater risk of depression and dementia. There’s plenty of evidence to link neglected hearing loss to issues such as social isolation.
In general, hearing loss is a chronic and degenerative problem. This means that there isn’t any cure and, over time, it’ll get worse. This doesn’t apply to every form of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. But “no cure” isn’t the same as “no treatment”.
If you come see us, we can help slow the development of your hearing loss and protect your current levels of hearing. Frequently, this means using a hearing aid, which is usually the optimum treatment for most types of hearing loss. So there are treatments for most people but there’s no cure. And those treatments can do a world of good when it comes to enhancing your quality of life.
Two types of hearing loss
Not all hearing loss is the same. There are two primary classes 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 obstructed by something, you get this form of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a little gross, but it happens). Perhaps, an ear infection is causing swelling. Whatever the cause, there’s something physically preventing sound waves from moving up to your inner ear. This type of hearing loss will be cured when the source of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent type of hearing loss. There are tiny hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. Your brain is able to interpret these vibrations as sound. As you go through life, these hairs get damaged, by loud noises typically. And these hairs stop functioning after they get damaged. This diminishes your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t make 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. Given your loss of hearing, allowing you to hear as much as possible is the purpose of treatment. The goal is to help you hear discussions, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, how do you deal with this type of hearing loss? Here are some common treatments.
Most likely, the single most common way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specially tuned to your particular hearing needs, so they’re especially beneficial. Wearing a hearing aid will let you better understand conversations and communicate with others over the course of your day to day life. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social solitude (and, as a result, lower your danger of dementia and depression).
Having your own set of hearing aids is incredibly common, and there are many styles to pick from. In order to identify 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 altogether. A cochlear implant does just that. Surgery is used to insert this device into the ear. The device picks up on sounds and translates those sounds into electrical energy, which is then transferred straight to your cochlear nerve. This allows your brain to convert those signals into sounds.
When a person has a condition called deafness, or complete hearing loss, cochlear implants are sometimes used. So even if your hearing has gone away completely, there are still treatment solutions available.
Scientists are always working on new ways to treat hearing loss.
In the past, curing hearing loss has proven impossible, but that’s precisely what new advances are geared towards. Here are some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this type of therapy. The concept is that new stereocilia can be generated 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 produced by your body’s stem cells. The stem cells become inactive after they develop stereocilia and are then known as progenitor cells. These new treatments are encouraging the stereocilia to regrow by reactivating the progenitor cells. Encouraging outcomes for these new therapies have come from early human trials. There was a substantial improvement, for most people, in their ability to hear and comprehend speech. It isn’t really known how long it will be before these therapies will be widely available.
- GFI1 Protein: Some researchers have identified a protein that’s essential to growing new stereocilia. It’s hoped that by finding this protein, researchers will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. This treatment is really still on the drawing board and isn’t widely available yet.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
There’s a great deal of promise in these innovations. But let’s not forget 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. Protect your hearing today.
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 assessment.