“Are there any new treatments for hearing loss, like a shot or pill?” Richard inquired.
Approximately 15 percent of adult Americans have difficulty hearing. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIOCD) estimates “fewer than one in three of those aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them.” While prevention, such as wearing hearing protection and decreasing the volume or music or noisy situations, is the best treatment for hearing loss, other research is showing promise. There are pharmaceutical companies attempting to provide medications for hearing loss. None to date have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The results are favorable with use of antioxidants and mineral/vitamin supplements. Although delivering these through our diet is the best form, eating better for overall health, the pill or more concentrated form needs to be delivered immediately after the noise or continuously administered prior to the noise induced trauma.
Many drugs are focusing on prevention rather than restoration. The difficulties arise from the actual cause of the hearing loss. It may be genetics, chemical or ototoxicity induced, diet related, noise induced, age-related, syndromic (associated with another impairment such as blindness) or non-syndromic (hearing loss only symptom).
“There’s now lots of evidence that say platinum therapy sticks around the hair cells and other cells in the inner ear for decades, so we’d (Decibel Therapeutics) like to protect those ears against the ravages of platinum therapy.” Mr. Star said. This research on platinum-based therapy sticks are for those suffering hearing loss as a result of ototoxicity from cancer related treatments. This current form of treatment does show promise, but is not widely used or FDA approved yet. Researchers are trying to fix cells that are broken. If we could regenerate hair cells that would be ideal, however re-growing cochlear hair cells has not been successful in humans. This requires gene therapy. Cochlear implants are currently the closest to stimulating hair cells.
The use of hair cell restoration has also been researched and studied. Researchers have not been successful to date. It is difficult to improve on the Cochlear Implant (CI) as the standard therapy treatment. The FDA requires new treatments to be better than the currently accepted best treatment. As of today, cochlear implants are very effective devices. They continue to improve in sophistication and effectiveness with faster recovery and improved audibility. Qualifying for Cochlear Implant surgery must be pre-approved by a Cochlear Implant Audiologist.
Listeners need to realize that any and all current treatment for hearing loss is not like other areas of the body, such as getting glasses or laser surgery for the eye. It is not “back to normal hearing again.” This is an altered and disordered reality. Nothing on the market currently can restore one’s hearing “back to normal” again. Hearing aids are just that- aids or assistance in hearing “better”. The make, model, size, etc. do increase the volume and, with some patients, volume improves clarity but background noise is there “normally”. When we lose our hearing gradually, it is difficult to recall what we chose to listen to versus what we chose to dismiss. No pill or shot can assist in this area currently.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.