Possible Cure for Hearing Loss?
Almost 50 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss, and many of them can be helped with hearing aids. But now there is a new possibility – a potential cure for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
In a recent issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from the Gladstone Institute and Weill Cornell Medical College published their findings of a simple chemical compound that helped prevent noise-induced hearing loss in mice.
A CHEMICAL TO PROTECT THE SOUND NERVE
Sound information is carried from the inner ear to the brain along the cochlear nerve. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the cochlear nerve is exposed to sudden loud noises or prolonged noise over 80 dB. The researchers found that a chemical called nicotinamide riboide (NR) can protect the cochlear nerve from noise-induced hearing loss.
In the study, mice were given doses of NR before and after being exposed to loud noises, and the NR prevented damage to the cochlear nerve. The treatment was effective when it was administered before and after the loud noises, and it worked to helped prevent both short-term and long-term hearing loss.
A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR AGE-RELATED HEARING LOSS
Researchers noticed a link between NR and a protein called sirituin 3 (SIRT3). In mice, the NR didn’t protect the cochlear nerve when the SIRT3 gene was deleted. And mice that were engineered to have high levels of SIRT3 were resistant to noise-induced hearing loss, even when they weren’t given NR. We know that SIRT3 decreases naturally in humans as we age, and this could be one of the reasons for age-related hearing loss.
NEW SENSORY HAIR CELLS
Damaged hair cells in the inner ear are another cause of noise-induced hearing loss. A study in the neuroscience journal Neuron suggested that a drug, codenamed LY411575, can regenerate these sensory hair cells. The drug suppresses proteins that prevent stem cells from becoming new sensory hair cells, allowing new sensory hair cells to grow when needed.
KEEP YOUR HEARING SAFE
While these discoveries are very exciting, there is still a lot of research to be done before these therapies can be used to treat or prevent hearing loss in humans. It’s still important to limit your exposure to loud noises, and wear earplugs or earmuffs when you will be exposed to loud noise for a long period of time.
Annual checkups with an experienced audiologist will help make sure your hearing is healthy now, and will give you the tools you need to keep hearing well for years to come.