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Can Temporary Blindness Be The Answer To Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is one of the most common impairments that a person can suffer in their lifetime. Regardless of whether the condition is age related or has occurred due to a constant exposure to loud noise, the process is usually irreversible and a cure for the damaged hearing is yet to be found. The hearing impaired have to rely on hearing aids to help them perceive the sounds around them, as currently there is neither a treatment nor drugs that can regain the lost abilities of the inner ear.

Recently, a study published in the Neuron journal, suggested the revolutionary idea that temporary blindness may possibly lead to the enhancement of the hearing abilities of particular people. Of course, the rationality of this possibility is yet to be further examined and explored in detail, but the results achieved during a lab experiment carried out with mice were quite astonishing and led to interesting discussions.

In order to perform the test, a group of mice were held in a completely dark premise for a week, while another group of mice received a sufficient amount of natural light during the period. The results showed that the animals kept in darkness had endured some changes in their brain’s auditory cortex and can hear softer sounds. Scientists are not fully aware whether the temporary blindness led to the reinforcement of the brain sections responsible for the hearing process or simply the parts responsible for vision were reorganised to help other sections, while kept inactive for a while. When the mice were returned to their normal living conditions, the effect of the experiment remained positive for a couple of weeks, after which they returned to their state prior to the test.

Scientists were intrigued by the achieved results, because they suggested that the hearing process should not be strictly related to the ear and its particular functions. One of the great things about the experiment was that it did not involve the use of special drugs or the performance of complicated procedures. However, it is not certain that such a treatment may have a positive effect on humans or lead to any enhancement of hearing abilities damaged due to age related hearing loss. Still, scientists believe that more test results can be of great significance for people who have cochlear implants, as their efficiency can be additionally improved.

Our sensory systems can work in surprising and unexpected ways and scientists need to further explore its possibilities and mechanisms. Even if advanced tests suggest that such alternative treatments or therapies may help particular people suffering from hearing loss, the focus of future experiments may well be on finding whether it is possible to stimulate and achieve an improved auditory perception permanently.

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