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New study finds human hearing loss could be reversible

on July 20, 2016, 4:00pm

It seems like a cruel twist of fate that humans can’t enjoy the best kind of music — loud music — without suffering from irreversible hearing loss somewhere down the line. It’s estimated that more than a third of seniors suffer from moderate hearing loss, and that number seems likely to grow as fans of bands like Nirvana and Metallica start to get up there in years. But according to a recent study reported by the Atlantic, we might not all be doomed to a life of screaming “What!?” at everyone who asks how retirement is going.

That’s because human hearing loss may actually be reversible. Animals like birds and reptiles have a “notch inhibitor” that regrows sensory hair cells after hearing loss; humans and other mammals don’t, which is why we experience hearing loss. The study suggests that a new treatment could imitate the notch inhibitor and cause hair cells in mammals to multiply.

In 2013, a team of researchers led by Dr. Albert Edge was able to grow regenerated hair cells in the cochlea of mice, allowing the animals to better detect certain kinds of sounds. Edge’s company Audion Therapeutics is now planning its first human clinical trials, and a Connecticut-based company called Frequency Therapeutics is developing another treatment based on inserting foam or a tube in the middle ear.

The Atlantic notes that it may be years or decades before an effective treatment is discovered, but it looks like hope (and better hearing) may be on the horizon. Read more about the study over at the Atlantic.