For millions of Americans, hearing loss is a frustrating condition affecting communication and imposing other difficulties. Hearing loss is often a result of exposure to loud noise, age, and infection. A magic cure or a wonder pill to restore hearing would undoubtedly be a most welcome surprise. A pharmaceutical cure for the sensorineural hearing loss that plagues so many individuals is currently the goal of numerous researchers from around the globe. Instead of just amplifying sounds, a pill would restore one’s hearing ability. There may come a day when a quick trip to a local pharmacy can cure hearing loss. Until that time arrives, here is some of the exciting research currently underway for hearing loss restoration.
The goal of these new drugs is to restore the small hair cells in the inner ear which have the responsibility of converting sound vibrations into electrical signals that travel to the brain via the auditory nerve. This particular area of drug development has complications due to the thousands of hair and nerve cells in the ear.
Research from 2016 suggests that answers to hearing loss may come from the sea. This study involving sea anemones shows that specific proteins found in sea anemones can restore damaged inner ear hair cells in mice. The researchers hope to build upon this research stating that hearing aids and cochlear implants remain the best solution for hearing loss at present.
While researchers at MIT studied how a drug cocktail could boost cell regeneration in the intestines, they went further to see if it might help hearing loss. Their work seeks to determine if the cell regeneration can work in the cochlea and restore hearing loss. The researchers believe that this drug cocktail, when injected into the middle ear, can repair the hair cells. However, like the study involving sea anemones, this work is far from complete. It is a significant step forward though.
Investigators at the University of Iowa, along with the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) are currently working toward partial hearing restoration. The study focuses on a particular type of deafness, DFNA27, and suggests a new treatment for it.
The study involves a small-molecule drug that is preserving the hearing in a mouse with an inherited form of progressive human deafness. The investigators partially restored hearing, primarily in the lower frequency range while saving sensory hair cells. The team feels that if additional studies can show that small-molecule-based drugs are useful in treating DFNA27 deafness in people, the approach may work for other forms of inherited hearing loss.
Research is undoubtedly taking significant steps forward in its efforts to restore hearing loss. The restoration of hair cells in the inner ear to restore hearing is closer than it has ever been. All of this research and others similar to them are making the future brighter for the millions of people who are hearing impaired.