Hearing Loss Cures of the Past

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | April 11th, 2020

Duane L. Smelser

You might have already heard that there is no cure for hearing loss. It has been commonly understood in medical science that once hearing is lost, it is gone for good. Remarkably, some cutting edge treatments are being tested that might change this belief! Drug therapies, gene therapies, and stem cell therapies are all possibilities that scientists are rapidly investigating to determine if hearing might actually be restored after it is gone. Although these glimmers of hope are on the horizon, none has been successful with adult human ears as of yet. Unfortunately, we are still in the position that hearing loss, once it has occurred, is irreversible. Despite this fact, some people have tried to “cure” hearing loss in a number of ways, none successful. The history of these wacky attempts at curing hearing loss should be further encouragement to only work with a licensed hearing health professional!

“Cures” throughout History

As early as the nineteenth century, evidence began to pop up of scientists, doctors, and healers trying to cure hearing loss with a number of odd devices. One of the earliest contraptions was an ear nerve stimulator. This device was inserted into the ear canal and vibrated to try to bring the nerves back to life. From what we know now, most forms of hearing loss do not have to do with the nerves but rather with the tiny hair-like cells in the cochlea. Another attempt was called galvanism whereby the ears were stimulated with an electrical shock. This therapy was even attempted on Ludwig van Beethoven to help with his tinnitus and other hearing afflictions. Although this treatment and others such as oil earplugs and “resting his ears” did not work, he still was able to make miraculously beautiful music enjoyed by countless people through the ages. Artificial eardrums were other contraptions used in the 19th Century to aid hearing. These units were dangerously inserted directly into the ear canal, and many were made of painful metal. Alas, this attempted cure did not work either. Yet another painful attempt at a cure was called blistering, whereby a person was literally given a blister in the hope that the pus released in the healing process would also release toxins.

Present-day “Cures”

Bizarre as these cures throughout history might seem to you, there are still strange remedies being invented with the hope to cure hearing loss. Some newer versions of these old attempts are continued with modern technology. Other present-day “cures” are blatant quackery. Techniques such as a hearing loss pill and hypnosis are said to be effective among a few unique individuals, but there is no scientific evidence for their efficacy. A more dangerous attempt at a “cure” for hearing loss is the use of a Personal Sound Amplification Product or PSAP. These units look like hearing aids but they work quite differently. Rather than only raising the volume of select frequencies that are missing from an individual’s hearing spectrum, as hearing aids do, these devices raise the volume on the entire range of sound. By raising the volume to such a high level in ranges that are already possible to hear, these devices can actually cause more hearing loss, quite the opposite of the cure some people suppose. Perhaps the oddest attempted cure of all comes from an unlikely source: cheese. A chemical compound found in cheese has been reported to reverse hearing loss! Alas, the amount of this chemical, called D-methionine, that one would need to consume to have the effect would require eating five pounds of cheese, obviously leading to a risk of other negative health outcomes.

Although these strange attempts at curing hearing loss have been ongoing through history, currently the only response to hearing loss is not a cure, per se. Instead, we think of the response as a treatment. Hearing aids and other assistive technologies are available to step in with assistance where hearing has been lost, and the advances to these treatments are truly remarkable. If you have hearing loss, make sure to seek out assistance from the right source: a licensed hearing health professional or audiologist. Only these experts can give you reliable information on the hearing loss treatments that are appropriate for you.

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