Every day scientists are coming up with new cures. That might be a positive or a negative. For instance, you might look at promising new research in the area of curing hearing loss and you figure you don’t really have to be all that cautious. You’ll feel like they will probably 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 healthy would be the better choice. There is some amazing research emerging which is revealing some awesome strides toward successfully 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’s just part of the aging process. But developing hearing loss has some serious drawbacks. Your social life, overall health, and mental health can be significantly affected by hearing loss, along with your inability to hear what’s going on around you. You will even raise your risk of developing dementia and depression with untreated hearing loss. There’s plenty of evidence to link untreated hearing loss to issues like social isolation.
Hearing loss is, generally speaking, a degenerative and chronic situation. So, over time, it will continue to get worse and there isn’t any cure. This doesn’t apply to every kind of hearing loss but we’ll get to that soon. Even though there is no cure, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
We can help you preserve your levels of hearing and slow down the development of hearing loss. Hearing aids are usually the form of treatment that will be most appropriate 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 enhancing your quality of life.
Hearing loss comes in two main kinds
Not all hearing loss is identical. There are two main classes of hearing loss. One can be cured, the other can be managed. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Conductive hearing loss: When the ear canal gets blocked by something, you get this type of hearing loss. Maybe it’s a clump of earwax (a bit gross, but it happens). Perhaps it’s inflammation from an ear infection. When something is blocking your ear canals, whatever it may be, sound waves won’t be capable of getting to your inner ear. This form of hearing loss will be cured when the cause of the obstruction is removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the more permanent form of hearing loss. There are fragile hairs in your ear (called stereocilia) that pick up minute vibrations in the air. These vibrations can be interpreted as sound by your brain. Unfortunately, these hairs are compromised as you go through life, typically by overly loud sounds. And these hairs stop working after they become damaged. This reduces your ability to hear. There’s currently no way to repair these hairs, and your body doesn’t grow new ones naturally. When you lose them, it’s forever.
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss
Just because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. The goal of any such treatment is to allow you to hear as much as you can given your hearing loss. The objective is to help you hear discussions, increase your situational awareness, and keep you functioning independently through life.
So, what are these treatment strategies? Here are some prevalent treatments.
Most likely, the single most prevalent way of treating hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids can be individually tuned to your specific hearing needs, so they’re especially useful. Over the course of your day, a hearing aid will help you make out conversations and communicate with people better. Hearing aids can even delay many symptoms of social isolation (and the risk of depression and dementia as a result).
There are lots of different styles of hearing aid to choose from and they have become much more common. 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 complete, 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. Your brain then interprets those signals as sound.
Cochlear implants are normally used when hearing loss is total, a condition known as deafness. So there will still be treatment solutions even if you have totally lost your hearing.
Scientists are always 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 some of those advances:
- Stem cell therapies: Your own stem cells are used in this kind of treatment. The concept is that these stem cells can then develop into new stereocilia (those delicate hairs inside of your ears). Studies with animals (like rats and mice) have shown some promise, but some form of prescription stem cell gene therapy is probably still a long way off.
- Progenitor cell activation: So, stem cells in your ear initiate the creation of stereocilia. The stem cells go dormant after they develop stereocilia and are then referred to as progenitor cells. These new treatments are stimulating 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 patients, in their ability to hear and understand speech. How long before these treatments are widely available, however, isn’t known.
- GFI1 Protein: There’s a protein which has been identified by scientists that is essential for the regrowth of stereocilia. It’s hoped that by discovering this protein, scientists will get a better concept of how to get those stereocilia to start growing back. Once again, this is one of those treatments that’s more in the “drawing board” stage than the “widely available” stage.
Stay in the moment – treat your hearing loss now
Some of these innovations are promising. But it’s essential to stress that none of them are available yet. Which means that it’s smart to live in the here and now. Be proactive about protecting your hearing.
Don’t try and wait for that miracle cure, call us now to schedule a hearing exam.
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