Hearing loss is a condition that affects more than 10% of the population worldwide. The future tendency is that the number of hard of hearing will continue to increase rapidly due to the ageing population and modern lifestyles often jeopardising hearing. Although there are types of hearing loss that can be treated medically or surgically, the only choice for the majority of the hearing impaired is to use a hearing aid. Unfortunately, hearing aids can only help the sufferer hear better by amplifying the surrounding sounds, but rarely fully restore hearing abilities.
One of the most common types of hearing loss occurs due to constant exposure to loud noise. Noise-induced hearing loss cannot be reversed or treated, because once the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged, they cannot be restored. Scientists are aware that even wearing the right protection cannot guarantee that a hearing problem will not occur with time and a possible solution would be to find a drug that could prevent the condition. A recent article in the Ear and Hearing journal has given some hope to all looking for a breakthrough in this area. The article discusses the latest findings of the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and in particular the work accomplished by Professor Colleen Le Prell, Ph.D in the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences.
One of the common problems with prevention drugs is to find a safe way to test them on humans in a way that will be harmless to their health and furthermore guarantee accurate and reliable results. When it comes to noise-induced hearing loss, a reasonable success has been achieved while testing prevention drugs on animals suffering from the condition, but it was necessary to take the tests one step further in order to check if the drugs could have the same effect on humans.
During an experiment, Dr. Le Prell managed to find a way to safely create noise-induced hearing loss in the participants that will only last for a short period of time and then be naturally reversed. This was achieved through listening to loud (between 93 and 102dB) rock or pop music for 4 hours. The testing model proved to be successful and the participants usually lost around 6dB of their hearing, which was restored within 3 hours after they stopped listening to the music. The model will be applied further to help the testing of two prototype hearing loss prevention drugs. The first one is a supplement, whose basic ingredients are Vitamins A, B, E and magnesium. It is produced by Hearing Health Science and during laboratory tests with animals managed to prevent temporary and permanent hearing loss. The second drug is manufactured by Sound Pharmaceuticals Inc. and is called SPI-1005. It contains an advanced molecule named ebselen that should serve as a protector of the inner ear.
All tests and experiments will be supervised by The Food and Drug Administration.