Stem Cell Therapy for Hearing Loss
Stem cell therapy, or stem cell treatment, is at the center of a great deal of controversy and promise. Since the discovery of new ways to harvest stem cells – instead of the controversial embryonic method – a great deal of new research has come to light. One of the potential applications for stem cell treatment may be hearing loss.
Specific Types of Hearing Loss
While stem cell research is extremely new and virtually no application can be completely ruled out, as yet just one type of hearing loss is being seen as a potential application. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss, and it involves three potential causes. The abnormality or damage may lie in the vestibulocochlear nerve, processing centers in the brain, or in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is often suffered by newborns who experience a very difficult birth, although it has a variety of other causes. Sensorineural hearing loss can be very mild, with only a minimal amount of sound distortion, or severe, with total deafness.
Stem cell therapy is being looked at as a potential remedy for sensorineural hearing loss only at this time.
How it Works
Research into stem cell therapy for hearing loss was pushed forward, in part, by anecdotal evidence coming from patients who underwent the procedure for other conditions. One remarkable case involved a young boy, severely hearing impaired since birth, whose parents chose to ‘bank’ or save his umbilical cord blood. They then used this blood to treat the boy for cerebral palsy. As an unexpected but very welcome side effect, the boy began to hear.
Currently, trials are set to begin which will specifically test for the effectiveness of stem cell therapy on hearing loss. The cells will be taken from the subjects’ own cord blood. That blood will be put through a process which separates stem cells, and those cells will be introduced into the patient’s body. Through these trials, it’s hoped that a potential cure for sensorineural hearing loss may be discovered.
Applications in Everyday Medicine
As a preventative step, not only for hearing loss but for any type of future stem cell therapy, many parents are choosing to bank their children’s’ umbilical cord blood. Since the body will almost always recognize its own cells, banking umbilical cord blood may be a literally life-saving move.
When seeking stem cell therapy of any kind, it’s important to ensure that the hospital and doctors you choose are experienced in the precise type of stem cell therapy you will undergo.
Insurance is also something to consider, as many insurance companies view stem cell therapy as experimental and therefore will not cover the expense. As stem cell therapy becomes more recognized, common and documented, more insurance companies are likely to begin covering the procedures.
How to Get Involved
Do you have a child with hearing loss or an adult? Contact us, as we are currently referring different hearing loss patients in a wide variety of situations. Depending on your situation, stem cell therapy for hearing loss may be the right answer for you.