Have you noticed you have to ask people to repeat themselves more and more often? Have people in your life complained that you listen to the TV too loudly? Do you struggle hearing over the phone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance that you may be dealing with the onset of hearing loss. If you are already accepting the possibility that you may have a hearing loss, perhaps you are wondering if hearing loss can be cured. The answer to this question depends on the kind of your hearing loss you are dealing with.
Types and Causes of Hearing Loss
There are two main types of hearing loss, which will determine the treatment for your hearing issues. The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when the fragile hairs of the inner ear are damaged or destroyed. This most commonly occurs due to old age, but can also be caused by exposure to excessive noise, head injury, chronic ear infections or some medications.
The other main type of hearing loss is classified as conductive and occurs due to a blockage in the middle ear. It is commonly caused due to an impaction of earwax, fluid in the ear due to infection, tumor or bone deformity in the ear canal.
A third classification of hearing loss is mixed which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Treatments for Hearing Loss
There are often cures for conductive hearing loss depending on the cause. In most cases an ear infection will subside allowing fluid to properly drain so you can regain your original hearing. If your physician can clear an impaction of earwax or remove a tumor, your hearing will be able to return to normal.
On the other hand sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible. Once the cells of the inner ear sustain damage they cannot regenerate in order to gain back hearing ability. With this understanding it is important to do everything you can to protect your hearing. Wear hearing protection when in the proximity of excessive sound, where a helmet when head trauma can be a risk and understand what medications can put your hearing at risk.
Even so, sometimes sensorineural hearing loss is unavoidable. While there is no current cure for this type of hearing loss, hearing aids have been championed to amplify the lost sounds around you and send them to your inner ears so you can hear many of the sounds you are struggling with.
Researching Cures for Hearing Loss
Just because there is no current cure for hearing loss does not mean that researchers aren’t searching for cures. Dr. Albert Edge of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute focuses on the mechanisms of cellular repair in the nervous system to find cures for hearing loss in the inner ear. Doctor Edge experimented in re-growing the inner ear hair cells in deaf mice. He is hoping that he can use his experiments to help the millions of people worldwide who struggle with permanent hearing damage.
Other research in reversing sensorineural hearing loss includes attempting to re-grow inner pillar cells and using gene therapy. Gene therapy is an experimental technique, which uses genes to treat or prevent disease rather than the use of surgery or medication. Scientists hope to use gene therapy to naturally stimulate inner ear hairs to re-grow.
Treating Hearing Loss
While it is hopeful to look forward to a cure for hearing loss, it is important to deal with your hearing loss now. The longer hearing loss is allowed to progress, the more health complications associated with hearing loss can progress.
Many of these negative effects include an erosion of your most cherished relationships, depression, social isolation, a greater risk of injury and higher risk of brain atrophy leading to dementia. These are just some of the devastating side effects of untreated hearing loss.
If you suspect you have a hearing loss but have been putting it off, now is the best time to deal with your hearing. Hearing aids can help you communicate, improve your relationships, your self-esteem, your sense of independence and protect your brain health.