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Could Fish Offer a Cure to Hearing Loss?

by April Maguire

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!

Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, fish aren't particularly well known for their hearing. After all, most of us probably don't think about fish having ears at all. But they do, and according to researchers one particular species of fish could hold the key to reserving hearing loss in human beings.

The fish in question is the midshipman fish, otherwise known as the singing fish. Both of these names stem from the fish's unique features. Midshipmen fish have a distinctive pattern of white spots that run the length of their bellies, resembling the buttons on a midshipman's uniform. Additionally, these fish create a distinct buzzing sound, making it sound almost as though they're singing.

It's this second feature that has scientists interested in the fish's ability to help with hearing loss. While underwater, it's difficult for female midshipmen fish to see their mates or to know where to nest. Instead, they find their way around thanks to the buzzing sounds made by their male partners.

What's most shocking, from a biological standpoint, is that the hearing of female midshipmen fish actually improves during mating season, allowing them to better evaluate the buzzing sounds of the males and choose the best mates. This increase in hearing ability is rare in the animals, and it could hold the key to improving hearing ability in humans.

Genetic Manipulation

When humans lose the inner ear cells that enable them to hear, that's it. They don't heal themselves or grow back. Midshipmen fish, on the other hand, continue to make new hearing cells throughout their lives. If researchers can determine genetically what's happening in these fish that allow them to improve their hearing, then theoretically scientists might be able to apply the same genetic fix to humans.

Unfortunately, the process to determine what's happening inside the midshipmen fish isn't easy. Right now, different groups of researchers are gathering fish in an effort to eventually isolate the hearing cells. One of the goals is to keep the ears of midshipmen fish alive inside of culture dishes, allowing researchers to manipulate them at a genetic level. Through a process of trial and error, hopefully they can unlock the secrets to preserving hearing.

As you can probably guess, this line of research is still years away from being useful to humans. But through tests on the midshipmen fish and other animals with similar abilities, scientists may one day find a way to manipulate human genes and allow us to avoid 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!

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