Around the world, nearly 50 percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from age-related hearing loss. Additionally, roughly 10 percent endure tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Now, a revolutionary pill is being tested that could represent a cure to both problems.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Age-related hearing loss is typically caused by damage to hairs in the inner ear. These hairs help to capture sounds and pass them on to the hearing nerves in our ears, which in turn transmit the sounds to our brains. When the hairs in the inner ear become damaged or die, it reduces the number of nerve impulses produced, which results in hearing loss.
Scientists say that a secondary cause for age-related hearing loss could also be tied to problems with nerve cells in the brain.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Unlike hearing loss, which inhibits our ability to hear sounds, tinnitus causes us to perceive sounds that aren’t actually present. Typically, we think of tinnitus as a ringing in the ears, but for some patients it can also take the form of buzzing, humming, whistling or ticking. For sufferers of tinnitus, these sounds can be either intermittent or constant.
As with hearing loss, tinnitus does not have a single underlying cause. Tinnitus can be the result of noise-induced hearing loss, neurological damage, ear infections, earwax build-up or even emotional stress.
How Can These Conditions Be Cured?
Scientists have developed a number of treatments, from behavioral therapies to drugs that affect the central nervous system, but so far nothing has been effective. However, a team of scientists in the UK, recently developed a new drug, which has the potential to cure hearing loss and tinnitus by manipulating a protein called Kv3. This protein helps to form pores within nerve cells in the hearing centers of the brain. These pores are necessary for potassium to enter the cells, and it’s this potassium which helps hearing signals pass from one nerve cell to another.
Researchers have found that our bodies produce less Kv3 as we age. Not only would a loss of Kv3 explain age-related hearing loss, but it could also be linked to tinnitus. So far, results have been promising. In fact, studies in Prague show that the new drug may improve hearing in older animals, while scientists in London and Carbondale, Illinois, have discovered that the drug could aid in the treatment of tinnitus.
Clinical trials for people are just getting underway throughout the UK, so we won’t know the effectiveness of the drug for some time. But a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus could be right around the corner.
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!