A promising study published by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary last December shows that reversing sensorineural hearing loss may someday be possible.
What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the stereocilia – the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that convert soundwaves into electrical energy that is passed through the auditory nerve to the brain. Once these cells are damaged, they cannot regenerate on their own, leading to permanent, irreversible hearing loss… Or so we thought.
About the Study
During the study, researchers found a new strategy for “reprogramming” the cells in the inner ears of adult mice to cause them to regenerate. This proof-of-concept study is significant in that it shows it may, in fact, be possible to reverse sensorineural hearing loss.
“The most significant aspect of the current study is the fact that the fully mature mammalian inner ear still retains the capacity to divide and regenerate if it is sufficiently reprogrammed, which removes a fundamental barrier that has prevented the inner-ear regeneration necessary for hearing restoration,” senior study author Zheng-Yi Chen explained.
Further study is necessary to determine what druglike molecules can achieve cell division and regeneration in larger mammals before clinical trials can begin on people.
“It is essential to demonstrate that cell division and hair cell regeneration can be achieved in a mature mammalian inner ear … We hope that our research can serve as a model for regeneration of other tissues with similar properties that are unable to regrow cells, such as in the retina and the central nervous system,” he added.
Is There a Cure for Hearing Loss?
Until a drug is found that can prompt regeneration of stereocilia in adult human ears, there is no cure for hearing loss. However, there are a number of options available to treat it. Many people experiencing hearing loss have found success with hearing devices. For cases of severe hearing loss that do not benefit from a hearing device, cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids are also available options.
To determine which treatment option is best for you, contact an audiologist at ENT of Athens today!