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Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other devices are great treatments for hearing loss, but they can’t restore hearing. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hearing loss, you may be wondering if there’s a cure that can bring your hearing back to what it once was. As of right now, there is no approved hearing loss cure, but let’s take a look at the recent scientific developments that could lead to something in the near future!

Hearing loss cure: What’s on the horizon

One of the most promising studies regarding a cure for hearing loss was published in December 2018 by researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neuroscience. The scientists were able to regrow the sensory hair cells (cilia) that are found in the inner ear (cochlea). Cilia are what convert sound vibrations into signals that your brain interprets as sound, and loss of cilia is what causes hearing loss.

One of the authors of the study noted that mammals are the only vertebrates in the animal kingdom that cannot regrow cochlear cells—all other vertebrates have no problem doing this. Scientists tried several approaches and found success with drugs that stimulate stem cell activity in the eyes and the pancreas. These drugs led to a series of cellular events that caused cochlear cells to regrow and reactivate.  

The lead author of the study reported that “This research demonstrates a signaling pathway that can be activated by different methods and could represent a new approach to cochlear regeneration and, ultimately, restoration of hearing.”

Clinical trials for a hearing loss cure

The Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at Columbia University is conducting a clinical trial using cell regeneration to treat hearing loss. The study uses a drug containing a gene that produces hair cells and scientists hope the drug will also stimulate the growth of hair cells in the cochlea.

Stanford Medicine is also involved in the fight against hearing loss—their Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery department has introduced a widespread initiative to cure hearing loss. They are conducting research in four key areas: Stem cell therapy, gene therapy, molecular therapy, and targeted neural stimulation.

In addition to studying hair cell regeneration in mammals, the Stanford initiative is also looking at how to prevent ototoxicity in antibiotics. Ototoxicity is when something is toxic to the ear, and certain antibiotics can cause serious damage to hearing cells. Stanford is not only looking to cure hearing loss but to prevent it as well.  

Kansas University Medical Center is also conducting a clinical trail regarding hearing loss. They are using an implanted virus to restore hearing in patients. They are also currently accepting applicants.

There are lots of exciting studies that point to a potential hearing loss cure. With clinical human trials underway, it’s not crazy to think a cure for hearing loss will be discovered in our lifetime! For now, though, invest in some quality hearing aids.

By: Elena McPhillips