Researchers Home in on Biological Ways to Restore Hearing

Discussion in 'Research News' started by Grant1, Feb 17, 2013.

    1. Grant1

      Grant1 Member

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      Research holds the promise that the kind of hearing loss I have may someday be reversible, returning the ear to close to its original pristine condition. Probably not soon and not for me, but most researchers think that within a decade they may have the tools that will eventually allow doctors to stop the progression of sensorineural hearing loss, including age-related hearing loss. Putting those tools into practice will take much longer. (Gene therapy, for people whose hearing loss has a genetic basis, will probably come sooner, possibly in the next decade.) The best guesses for hair cell regeneration—for the much larger group of people whose sensorineural loss is caused by noise or ototoxins or age—range anywhere from twenty to fifty years.
      Until recently, scientists focused on the development of devices that would take the place of normal hearing: hearing aids and cochlear implants. The pharmaceutical industry, usually so quick to jump on the opportunity to medicalize a chronic age-related condition—dry eyes and wrinkles, trouble sleeping, lagging sexual function, bladder control, memory loss—has not paid much attention to age-related hearing loss, in terms either of prevention or cure. There are no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of hearing loss. Demographics alone would suggest they are missing a big opportunity.
      In October 2011, the Hearing Health Foundation (formerly the Deafness Research Foundation) held a symposium in New York to kick off its new campaign, called the Hearing Restoration Project, an ambitious program that had enlisted, at that point, fourteen researchers from ten major hearing & loss research centers in the United States. This consortium will share findings, with the goal of developing a biological cure for hearing loss in the next ten years. With a fund-raising target of $50 million, or $5 million a year, the Hearing Restoration Project will tackle the problem of hearing loss with the aim of curing it, not treating it.
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