Article Image

IPFS News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

New Zinc Treatment 'Can Help to Restore Lost Hearing' in Mice–University Research Shows

•, By Andy Corbley

Scientists have discovered the biological mechanism of hearing loss caused by loud noise, which helped them find a way to prevent it.

When exposed to loud noises some people experience temporary or even permanent hearing loss or drastic changes in their perception of sound after the loud noises stop.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the US have now discovered that this noise-induced hearing loss stems from cellular damage in the inner ear that is associated with the excess of free-floating zinc, a mineral that is essential for proper cellular function and hearing.

Their experiments showed drugs that work as molecular sponges trapping excess zinc can help restore lost hearing, or if administered before an expected loud sound exposure, can protect from hearing loss.

"Noise-induced hearing loss can be debilitating. Some people start hearing sounds that aren't there, developing a condition called tinnitus, which severely affects a person's quality of life," said Professor Thanos Tzounopoulos from the Pittsburgh Hearing Research Center.

"Noise-induced hearing loss impairs millions of lives but, because the biology of hearing loss is not fully understood, preventing hearing loss has been an ongoing challenge."

To get their results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team studied the inner ear cells of mice.

They found that hours after mice are exposed to loud noise, their inner ear zinc level spikes which, ultimately, leads to cellular damage and disrupts normal cell-to-cell communication.