Hearing Loss May Be Reversible, According to Dutch Scientists

click to enlarge Hearing Loss May Be Reversible, According to Dutch Scientists
Via Wikimedia
If you’re like me, you can remember the specific shows that wreaked havoc upon your hearing. Japandroids in 2012 had me ringing for days; Fucked Up in 2014 left my head in an impenetrable fog, not unlike a hangover; Anytime I plan on attending a Ghost Police or Blithe show, I chalk up some hearing function as a permanent loss.

For musicians and those whose profession places them in the context of loud, extended sounds, noise-induced hearing loss is a serious problem, limiting work function and your ability to hear friends and loved ones at a level below shouting. So there’s great news from The Atlantic, where Jessa Gamble reported on a Dutch company working to reverse hearing loss, a problem that had had previously been considered irreversible.

Audion Therapeutics is hoping to develop a proof of concept to regenerate the hair cells that facilitate hearing function within the ear. In fish and birds, inner-ear sensory hair cells — which transmit info to the auditory nerve connected to the brain — will regenerate if they are damaged. Alas, mammals cannot. Humans are born with about 15,000 sensory hairs in each ear; we make due for life with what we have.

"What happens in most cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there are cells inside the ear that effectively die off in response to sound," Matthew Fitzgerald, an audiology expert at Stanford University, told the Current in a story on hearing loss from last year. In most circumstances, a loud sound will bend or strip a sensory hair cell of its function. “In some cases, they'll swell up and they'll explode."

In 2013, Dr. Albert Edge first developed a “notch inhibitor” molecule that will grow new hair cells in a culture. When grown in the inner ears mice, these sensory hair cells improved the animals’ hearing at specific pitches. In 2016, Edge and Audion are planning the first round of human clinical trials, testing the safety and effectiveness of the program. But for now, those $2 ear plugs are going to be your best bet to hold on to your ears.


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