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Could Hearing Loss be Reversible in Humans?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 10:31:31 PM Australia/Melbourne

Could Hearing Loss be Reversible in Humans?It sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? That you could lose all of your hearing over the course of a long life, and with the flick of a switch, have it all back. Well we’re not talking about flicks of switches or any such magic, more a body of research that shows promising signs that humans could do just this.


It started with animals. There are many that can regrow the tiny hair cells in their ears that help to enable hearing. In fact, a songbird may lose all of its hearing if it’s impacted by a loud noise or even a serious trauma. But over time, the hair cells, its sensory hair cells, completely regenerate. This is also the case for most vertebrates, even fish and frogs. And it’s all natural. If they can do it, why can’t we?


Did you know that more than 30% of senior citizens are impacted from hearing loss of at least a moderate degree? That number continues to climb year over year. We’re fortunate that hearing aids have evolved and improved, but they’re only one variety of solutions. Research and work continue to develop a drug that would eradicate hearing loss, but none have been successful to date. Instead of considering this to be a setback, scientists have found inspiration in our vertebrate friends, and have begun to develop different ways that humans can grow new hair cells within the lining of the cochlea.


In 2013, a Dr. Albert Edge of Harvard University, made a breakthrough and was able to show that with a notch inhibitor type molecule, new hair cells will grow within a culture. Each of these tiny hair cells respond to different pitches, different frequencies of sounds. Interestingly enough, Dr. Edge rather stumbled upon this find as it relates to hearing loss, having been involved in a study about side effects of dementia treatment at the time.


Dr. Edge and the company Audion Theraputics of Denmark, are still working on a proof of concept. This work is being funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Fund. This fund has taken the initiative to provide extra support to investments that they deem promising but are more on the risky side of things.


Similar work has taken place in Farmington, Connecticut, in the USA. A company called Frequency Theraputics has been developing ways to induce the supporting cells, causing them to multiply. They would then become hair cells using Dr. Edge’s recommended notch inhibitor method.


As with many of the most exciting advancements in medical research, there are no clear parameters around when or how this body of work could come to fruition. It could be months and it could be years before either of these methods are tested on human beings. The exciting element here, however, is the friendly competition that has begun to take place. Who, if anyone, will determine a solution first? Hearlink will continue to keep a pulse on the story and share updates as available.

Posted in Industry News By

Hearlink Admin