This week in Audicus blogs, find out about the latest current events when it comes to topics in hearing health!
The year 2016 has brought many discoveries in terms of hearing loss prevention and the benefits of new hearing aids. Current events in hearing health news include:
Hearing Loss and Zika
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in early September 2016 that establishes a connection between Zika virus and instances of hearing loss in babies.
Originating in Africa, the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is practically nonexistent in the U.S. and normally comes equipped with symptoms including microcephaly and other brain deformities.
Of the 70 infants involved in the Brazil-based study, 7% had sensorineural hearing loss. A similar study in Brazil using 23 infants infected with the Zika virus found that 9% of the babies had hearing loss.
These results are not very surprising seeing as other congenital viruses have been known to cause hearing loss, including toxoplasmosis, rubella and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Hearing Loss and Genes
Hearing loss can be caused by a number of different factors including noise trauma, viruses and drugs, but age-related hearing loss in particular often has a genetic component and is more common in certain families compared to others.
Scientists from the Medical Research Council Harwell have identified a number of genes causing age-related hearing loss in mice. Analogous genes in humans may also play a role in the development of hearing loss in people.
The researchers introduced mutations in random positions of mouse DNA and examined which mutated positions result in hearing loss. One of the genes identified was Slc4a10, which is surprising because for years the gene has been associated with the function of eyes, not ears.
Identifying the mutations that cause age-related hearing loss in people can help us predict the likelihood of certain individuals developing hearing loss, as well as develop possible treatments.
Hearing Loss and Sea Anemones
In addition to being graceful and flamboyant, scientists have found that sea anemones can also play a role in hearing restoration!
Researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have found that the proteins that starlet sea anemones (Nemastolla vectensis) use to repair their own tissues can also be used to regenerate auditory cells in mice.
Starlet sea anemones have tentacles that are covered in hair-like cells that sense vibrations from prey in the water. These hair-like cells are similar to the auditory hair cells found in mammals including humans. The sea anemones use certain proteins to regenerate their hair-like cells after they’ve been damaged, an ability that is lacking in humans.
Starlet sea anemones have amazing regenerative capabilities and can grow back different body parts that have been torn off by predators. These anemones even reproduce by ripping themselves in two and creating whole bodies from the two parts.
Although research concerning sea anemones and hearing restoration is in its preliminary trials, there is much promise in terms of developing new forms of treatment for people with hearing loss.