Hearing loss is a growing problem around the world, affecting roughly 50 million people in the United States alone. While the majority of this hearing loss is due to advanced age or noise-induced damage, a significant portion is caused by natural genetic mutation. One such mutation to the connexin 26 gene is responsible for congenital sensorineural hearing loss, which accounts for 20% of all genetic hearing loss and more than 10% of hearing loss among children.
Although there may be no way to repair the genes, it may be possible to slow the progression of the ensuing hearing loss. And according to a recent study, it may be just a simple matter of providing children with the proper nutritional supplements.
Using Supplements to Preserve Hearing
For hearing loss associated with the connexin 26 mutation, scientists have found that high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and beta-carotene worked to preserve hearing. One of the reasons this drug cocktail is effective is that sufferers of this mutation are actually born with normal hearing function. In fact, children who have the mutation to their connexin 26 genes pass screening tests that are routinely given to newborns. Over time, however, the mutation results in destruction of cells, which leads to an increased loss of hearing ability. According to researchers, this specialized supplement cocktail saves those cells and slows the progression of hearing loss.
For the study, mice were used to test the effectives of the nutritional supplements. Mice with the connexin 26 gene mutation were given supplements while in the womb and following birth. According to researchers, the results showed that the nutritional supplements not only improved the mice’s hearing thresholds, but they also helped to slow the long-term progression of hearing loss.
Not a Cure-All
Unfortunately, these nutritional supplements don’t work for all kinds of genetic hearing loss, and it may even be detrimental to other forms of deafness. In studying mice, researchers found that subjects who had a different type of hearing loss, called auditory neuropathy, actually responded negatively to the supplements. In fact, the cocktail led to a rapid progression of hearing loss, ‘causing the mice to go deaf faster.
Still, these results prove that nutritional supplements can slow the progression of hearing loss in children with the connexin 26 mutation. In the future, further research will need to be conducted to verify the results and create a uniform method for treatment, but scientists could be on the verge of solving one of the most common causes of genetic hearing loss.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!