Although it may not grab as many headlines as other health issues, hearing loss is a major problem. At present, it's estimated that over 350 million people around the globe are afflicted with some degree of hearing loss. Those numbers include the more than three out of every thousand infants in the United States that are born with hearing loss, as well as the one in eight children over the age of 12 that suffer from some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. On top of that, roughly 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from the condition.
Truly, no matter how you slice it, the numbers are alarming, and traditional solutions may not be adequate for many people. Modern hearing aids not only amplify sounds but also digitally clarify them, helping people to hear more clearly, but they're not suitable for everyone. Similarly cochlear implants can be a good solution for people with severe hearing loss, but it's still seen by some as an extreme treatment.
Thankfully though, a new kind of hearing loss solution may be on the way. Medical start-ups and drug companies are looking to solve hearing problems through pharmaceuticals. Ultimately, the hope is that these drugs can reverse the problem, not just compensate for hearing loss.
New Drugs on the Way
Currently, there are several different medical companies looking to find a novel solution to hearing loss. One of those companies, Frequency Therapeutics, is developing a series of drugs that interact with the tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear. These cells are incredibly delicate, and can become damaged due to exposure to loud noises or simply as a result of old age. For their approach, the Boston-based company is trying to find ways to reactivate the stem cells related to the hair-like cochlea cells. If they're successful, the tiny cells will be able to repair themselves, restoring the ability to hear.
Meanwhile, another company called Otonomy is looking to restore hearing another way. In particular, their researchers are focused on finding a way to repair the damaged synapse connections between the tiny cochlea hair cells and the auditory nerve bundle. When these synapses are damaged, sufferers have a hard time distinguishing between different types of sounds, particularly in a noise environment. And while Otonomy's drug cocktails aren't ready for the public, initial tests have been positive.
These are just two of the numerous companies currently looking for a way to treat hearing loss through pharmaceuticals. While we may still be years away from having a reliable drug, these areas of inquiry represent a new and exciting solution to the problem of hearing loss, At this point, it's just a matter of when, not if, these theoretical drugs become a reality.
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!