The industry of hearing health has gone through a tremendous amount of change in recent years. Among these changes are enhanced hearing aid technology and more hearing treatment options. Despite these improvements, researchers have not yet discovered how to cure acquired hearing loss. In order to effectively cure a hearing impairment, doctors will need to treat the loss of hair cells, which transmit sound to the brain.
Stem Cell Therapy
Some researchers believe that stem cell therapy could be used to successfully regenerate damaged hair cells. Stem cells are a source of new cells which could be transplanted to replace or promote hair cell growth in the inner ear. These studies show a lot of potential. Researchers at Stanford have even come close to producing stem cells in the laboratory that function similarly to the hair cells in the inner ear. However, the process of inserting these cells into the inner ear is much more complex.
This method introduces genes to the inner ear that encourage the growth of new hair cells. One study looks at the gene that causes hair cell growth in embryotic mammals. This gene causes hair cells to develop until enough have been created. The gene then shuts off and no longer causes the growth of these hair cells. By using a specific gene, researchers hope to reactivate this growth. Some of the individuals who have been a part of early gene therapies have reported hearing new frequencies. However, scientists are still learning about the many intricacies of permanently restoring hearing.
Though these therapies are still in the trial phase, they do show promise. As scientists get closer to finding an effective cure, more parties—including drug companies—are taking an interest in their research. Considering hearing loss effects approximately 20% of the population, finding a cure for this condition could be revelatory. In the meantime, individuals do not need to suffer from their hearing loss. Tucson, AZ has some of the nation’s premiere audiology experts. To learn more about hearing treatments, contact your local audiologist at (520) 399-7630!