We live in an amazing world. Medical breakthroughs occur everyday, and many of our leading researchers believe that the next 20 to 30 years will see the eradication of thousands of common ailments. It’s absolutely fascinating, but depending on the health issues which ail us, it might seem hard to believe. Despite advancements in technologies, those of us who suffer from hearing loss still don’t have a cure-all; the deaf remain deaf, and it seems like there’s no answer in sight.
But help is on the way. Today we’re going to take a look at some truly cutting-edge solutions on the horizon in the field of aural rehabilitation. Keep tabs on these hot stories and in a few years you might just benefit from their widespread distribution!
An Upcoming New Drug Cocktail
For those with sensorineural hearing loss, an answer may be close in the form of an experimental drug. Thanks to researchers at MIT, a discovery has been made which links intestinal stem cells with the structural support cells located in the cochlea. What this means is that as stem cell research enters its next phase, it may be possible to acutely treat sensorineural deficiency — a big deal indeed, since there’s currently no true solution. And sensorineural hearing loss is one of the biggest sources of auditory frustration around; in America alone, 48 million citizens identify themselves as having hearing problems, and a large percentage of this is related to this particular type.
The researchers hope to begin major testing in the next year. Like any drug, the tests will be rigorous. It could be several years before this is ready for distribution, but if it all goes as planned, it will be a significant milestone in the medical world and it might just help us to get back to hearing crystal-clearly.
Similar to the proposed drug cocktail, ongoing gene therapy experiments aim to treat issues around the cochlea. The overwhelming majority of hearing loss issues worldwide involve the degradation (and eventual death) of inner ear “hair cells”. They’re not really hair follicles, but when looked-at up close with a microscope, they rather look like it! What happens is that as these cells break down, either through age or genetic misfortune, our ability to comprehend sound waves diminishes.
The good news is that researchers are currently undergoing the world’s first cellular regeneration therapy experimentation involving cochlear disability. There’s an excitement and a cautious optimism in the marvelous results posted thus far, and a real hope is in the air that gene therapy can and will bring a gradual end to many forms of hearing loss. Again, it will be a while before we can regularly reap the benefits of this painstaking research, but it promises to improve our quality-of-life considerably once it’s ready for rollout.
Next-Generation Hearing Aid Technologies
It will be awhile before these two groundbreaking medical experiments yield help on a wide scale, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great products on the market right now that can make a sizable difference. Hearing aids have come a long way over the past few decades, and while the price for the best can be somewhat steep, they’re worth every penny. You can think of improvements in the hearing aid industry somewhat like televisions. Remember back before HDTVs were sold when the best anyone could hope for was a big, fuzzy picture? Massive televisions were considered a status symbol, but picture quality was never amazing. Nowadays, young folks can hardly fathom what they’re seeing when their parents and grandparents bust out the standard-definition fare, and new HDTV models are made every year which make the older ones look like dinosaurs, too.
Of course, at the end of the day a TV is a TV. But when it comes to hearing loss, it’s all the more pivotal that our hearing aids deliver great sound. Here’s where my analogy makes sense: the past few years of hearing aids have often used the “HD” moniker to denote that they’re a definite cut above what came before them. These devices can cost several thousand dollars, but there are many very solid models in distribution for a fraction of that. $500 can afford you a more crystal-clear sound pickup than the earlier models could have ever hoped to achieve. Those who make this kind of purchase can expect much improved aural clarity; in fact, many people who don’t even believe that they have any sort of hearing loss have tested the products and come away impressed. It’s a bit like buying a Bose for your eardrums. You’ll have a tough time going back to stereo.