Hearing loss is on the rise. Thanks to the proliferation of personal listening devices, such as call phones, tablets and MP3 players, the rate of noise-inducing hearing loss has spiked over the last decade. Coupled with the traditional sources of hearing loss, such as noisy work environments, loud public venues and old age, that means that hearing problems are at an all-time high.
Sadly, once hearing loss sets in, there is no way to reverse it. Or at least, there hasn't been until now. Recently, a team of researchers released a study which showed that reversing hearing loss may be possible thanks to a specialized cocktail of small molecules.
Understanding Hearing Loss
Your ear contains roughly 15,000 highly specialized, hair-like cells that collect auditory information from the environment and then transmit that information to the hearing centers in your brain. One of the most common forms of hearing loss occurs when these tiny cells become damaged or destroyed, impairing your body's ability to take in auditory stimuli.
This type of cell death is exactly what happens to people who suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. Since these hair cells are incredibly sensitive, they are susceptible to loud noises. In fact, hearing experts have determined that any sound in excess of 85 decibels has the ability to damage your hearing. So anything from your kitchen blender, to the lawn mower, to a loud concert can cause these hair cells to die off.
Finding the Right Cocktail
Fortunately, scientists may have discovered a way to coax these hair cells to grow back after they've been damaged. As it turns out, the hair cells in the ear are surrounded by numerous supporting cells that can act like stem cells under the right conditions. When exposed to a finely-tuned cocktail of small molecules, these supporting cells stimulated the growth of new cochlea hair cells in mice. If a similar cocktail can work for humans, then we may have a way to cure hearing loss for a significant portion of the population.
As with most scientific discoveries, however, there are some caveats. First of all, the researchers warn that the small molecule cocktail used on mice is too complex for humans, so a more streamlined version will need to be developed. Additionally, the cocktail would only work on people whose hearing problems stem from the loss of cochlea hair cells, as opposed to other forms of hearing loss.
Still, this research shows that hair cell death isn't permanent, as previously thought. As such, this is just the first step on a road that could lead to a surefire solution to noise-induced 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!