May 20th, 2018

To Your Health: Now hear this good news on hearing loss research

By Gillian Slade on January 22, 2018.

If you or someone you love has issues with hearing there is some exciting research news about reversing the cause of hearing loss.

Several really big clinical trials are underway in the U.K. A medication is injected into the ear to stimulate the growth of the “hair” cells in the ear.

In a well functioning ear sound enters the cochlea and the sensory cells, that look like tiny hairs, pick that up, changing the sound into electrical impulses that then travel on the auditory nerve to the brain.

People with hearing loss have typically experienced some damage to those little hair cells due to an infection, being exposed to loud noise or simply the process of aging.

Injecting a gamma-secretase inhibitor into a cell called a progenitor cell was found to create new hair cell growth, by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Informary in Boston way back in 2013.

In the U.K., tests to ensure the drug is safe have already been accomplished and it is now being administered to a small group of patients who have had partial hearing loss and are currently using a hearing aid. The drug is injected into the eardrum three times a week after a local anesthetic is applied.

In the U.S. a similar drug, but a slow release gel, is also being tested. The advantage of this drug is that it slowly penetrates the ear over several days.

So far there have not been any significant side effects and in the next two years studies will be carried out.

When you are likely to have the option of this treatment is not known. Sorry.

About a million Canadians have reported some hearing loss, according to Statistics Canada.

Although many seniors experience hearing loss it can affect people of any age.

We already know that hearing loss doubles the risk of developing dementia. People who can’t hear conversations are inclined to withdraw and become more isolated. This can lead to cognitive decline. Hearing impairment also increases the risk of falling and contributes significantly to depression.

If hearing loss has occurred slowly over a long period you may not even be aware of the extent of the loss. Your friends and family may notice you are not understanding what is being said. You may feel as though others are not speaking clearly enough and you may find yourself turning up the volume on the radio or television.

Count yourself lucky if you are not experiencing hearing loss yet. We should all use hearing protection when exposed to noise. This would include cutting the grass or using a snowblower. Even hair dryers and food mixers can be very noisy but increasingly appliance manufacturers are taking note and are reducing noise.

Here’s to reduced noise and reducing hearing loss and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635

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