The short answer is: No. There is no hearing loss cure currently available, but the future is looking brighter every day as researchers search for a solution.
Why Isn’t There a Hearing Loss Cure?
Since there are many different causes and kinds of hearing loss, it is difficult to come up with a single cure. A common cause of hearing loss is damage to the hearing nerves, called hair cells, which do not regrow or repair themselves. Scientists are tasked with the complicated issue of creating technologies that can either mimic auditory nerves, or somehow repair or replace them once they are damaged. Currently, all hearing loss cure research has been done in small animals, such as mice and birds, rather than with human hair cells. Age-related changes that human ears undergo also presents a challenge to researchers, as the ear continues to change and develop over the years.
Another significant cause of hearing loss is genetic disorders that people are born with, and that are hard to detect in utero. Once a person is born with congenital hearing loss, it is already too late (unlike noise-induced hearing loss, which can be avoided). Hearing loss caused by damaged bones can sometimes be remedied with surgical intervention, but for the most part there is not a hearing loss cure —yet.
Curing Hearing Loss: Looking Towards the Future
Since hearing loss is such a prevalent problem in the United States and around the world, there are a number of organizations dedicated to finding a cure for hearing loss. The Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss (SICHL) is part of the Stanford School of Medicine and states that “the goal of SICHL is to devise treatment that repair the damaged inner ear and restore loss hearing, quiet tinnitus, and improve balance.” They are concentrating on four key areas of research: stem cell therapy, gene therapy, molecular therapy, and targeted neural stimulation. Stem cell therapy explores the possibility of repairing damaged cells or growing new parts from a person’s own skin cells. Research into genetic hearing loss has shown that the majority of hearing loss are caused by mutation in only three genes, which gene therapy intends to target. Molecular therapy looks into utilizing drugs as a cure for hearing loss, and targeted neural stimulation aims to use work with auditory nerves to make hearing clearer as well as louder.
Researchers at the department of otolaryngology at Columbia University Medical Center are also working hard to develop a hearing loss cure. The scientists there are using gene therapy to combat genetic hearing loss, which could mean that children born with hearing loss will be able to hear. Researchers are also studying cochlear bone development to learn more about conditions that cause hearing loss due to defective bone development.
Currently, hearing aids and cochlear implants are the best treatments for hearing loss. While there is no cure yet, the vigorous research being done by leading scientists across the country makes us hopeful that one day the world will see a cure for hearing loss!