New Research to Aid Hearing without Surgery or Hearing Aides
Aging baby boomers are now facing hearing loss – millions of them. In fact, it’s an epidemic situation. Cochlear implants are being used but for most people who suffer from hearing loss, the answer is hearing aides.
However, there’s a breakthrough and it has to do with regenerating tiny hair cells in the cochlear. It’s not unheard of . . . other species – like birds – regenerate hair cells.
Dr. Lawrence Lustig, a national expert on hearing loss and head of Otolaryngology at Columbia University said in an interview that loud sounds are “like a tsunami coming into the inner ear and that causes those hair cells to die and if there’s no hair cells the nerve is no longer being stimulated and you can’t hear.”
The company Novartis, is experimenting with a harmless virus that carries a gene into the inner ear to stimulate new growth of hair. The virus injects the DNA into the cell and takes over the cell’s machinery to make a new protein that causes the non-hair cell to become a hair cell. The treatment has been successful in animals and humans will be treated soon. But the obstacle is the delivery system. The treatment washes out of the ear, so the effects may be temporary.
A biotech company, Otonomy, has a gel that is injected into the ear and this allows the medication to stay in place longer. Jay Lichter, founder of Otonomy, said in an interview that “if you are trying to regrow hair cells for a patient who is already deaf to give them the ability to hear again, you want the drug on board as long as possible so those hair cells continue to regrow and can continue to send signals to the brain that they can hear.”
Apparently, Big Pharma has a growing interest in the new treatments which means there is great promise. Lucky for baby boomers and our younger generations who listen to their music as loud as they can. In a few years, hearing loss may be a thing of the past. Amazing.