The way we treat hearing loss has advanced incredibly in the past few decades, due in part to the tireless efforts of researchers around the world in pursuit of greater understanding of the condition, as well as ways to address it.
Much of the research into hearing loss focuses on the thousands of tiny hair cells inside the ear, which play a key role in the hearing process. When these sensitive hair cells are damaged, they cannot regenerate, resulting in a loss of hearing.
Here we're taking a closer look at an exciting discovery that could change the way researchers treat hearing loss.
Breathing new life into the ear's cells
A new study has discovered that administering a combination of drugs can multiply the number of supporting progenitor cells in the ear, triggering them to transform into vital hair cells*.
"Hearing loss is a real problem as people get older. It's very much of an unmet need, and this is an entirely new approach," says senior author Professor Robert Langer.
After generating a high volume of progenitor cells by exposing them to growth-stimulating molecules, the researchers used a second set of molecules that caused the progenitor cells to become mature hair cells.
A new way to potentially treat hearing loss
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this innovative approach produced 60 times more mature cells than with the previously most successful method.
The researchers believe that the drug could be easy to administer to human patients, involving a simple injection to the middle ear – a common technique for treating ear infections.
"We hope that our work will serve as a useful tool for other scientists to more effectively pursue studies of supporting cells and hair cells for basic research and potential therapeutic solutions to hearing loss," said lead author Dr Will McLean.
If you believe that your hearing has changed, it's important to act sooner, rather than later. To find out what support is available, or if you have any queries about hearing loss, don't hesitate to reach out to your local Audika clinic.
You can book your hearing check by clicking here, or give us a call on 1800 340 631.