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Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014

Restoring Lost Hearing

Sunset on ocean

For years researchers have sought to cure hearing loss. In the past, research focused on restoring hair cells, and though this research remains promising, today surprising observations have introduced a new avenue of exploration.

Noise induced hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and it continues to expand throughout the general population thanks, in part, to increasingly noisy environments and the use of earbuds. The damage to hearing happens when the delicate hair cells that constitute hearing are bent by loud sounds or degenerate due to longterm exposure to noise, as demonstrated in this video below.

For a long time, scientist have sought ways to restore these hair cells. Their research has focused on observing how animals, like chickens, are able to regenerate hair cells. Now new research indicates that restoring these hair cells might be secondary to restoring the supporting cells that surround them.

According to research done at the University of Michigan Medical School, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and reported on by ScienceDaily, newborn mice have the ability to preserve hearing by regenerating supporting hair cells. When the cells that support the crucial hair cells are destroyed, hearing is usually lost. Unless, the supporting hair cells are damaged a few days after birth. In that case, the cells are regenerated and hearing is preserved. How this happens and why this ability is lost a few days after birth is an important clue in how scientist can restore lost hearing.

Researchers now realize that their focus of restoring hair cells was incomplete, because they had not realized the importance of the supporting hair cells. Now that a more complete picture is in place, the focus has become broader. In addition to finding ways to regenerate hair cells, researchers are examining how supporting cells regenerate themselves. As Dr.Corfas of the U-M Department of Otolaryngology was quoted as saying, "If we can identify the molecules that are responsible for this regeneration, we may be able to turn back the clock inside these ears and regenerate lost cells."

Though research has a way to go before lost hearing can be easily or even fully restored, hearing loss professionals continue to improve hearing technologies that allow those with hearing loss to participate and engage in the world. To find out more about how you can improve your hearing visit your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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