You can now stop shouting uncomfortably at your grandparents for them to hear you. A new study has finally found ways to combat this hearing loss and it doesn’t need complicated operations!
48 million Americans are affected by hearing loss. We have about 15,000 hair cells per ear that detect sound waves and translate them into nerve signals, allowing us to hear speech, music, and other everyday sounds. Moreover, these hair cells can be damaged due to noise exposure, aging, and some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. And once these cells die, these cannot regrow.
However, thanks to the researchers at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear, we might now be able to utilize certain combination of drugs and potentially treat hearing loss. These drugs can possibly expand the population of progenitor cells (also called supporting cells) in the ear to induce them to become hair cells.
While this has not been tested on human patients yet, with its simple drug exposure treatment, the researchers are positive that this would be easily administered and would yield the expected response. They envision the drugs to be injected into the middle ear, from which they would diffuse across a membrane into the inner ear- a type of injection commonly performed to treat ear infections.
Jeffrey Holt, a professor of otolaryngology and neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, supported this approach, saying that it could potentially treat hearing loss only if its safety and effectiveness can be demonstrated.
“The ability to promote proliferation of inner-ear stem cells and direct their maturation toward an auditory hair cell fate is an important advance that will accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and facilitate translation of regenerative medicine approaches for restoration of auditory function in patients with acquired hearing loss,” he said.
This useful research can further be improved to finally create a treatment that will be proven and tested by human samples.