Technology keeps making waves, and with 2017 now well underway we were happy to hear of the amazing news coming out of the medical world last week.
Current medicine is clear: as we age, the hair cells in our ears — like the rest of us — slowly die. It happens differently from person to person, but it happens nonetheless. That damage to the approximately 15,000 hair cells per ear, which can be exacerbated by loud noise and some medication, is a leading factor contributing to hearing loss. And once those cells have been damaged, they don’t grow back naturally.
Today, hearing loss is greatly underscored by the overwhelming presence of loud sounds and music all around us. Nightclubs, festivals, shows and even personal at-home listening put our ears in constant danger of tinnitus and what has always been believed to be permanent hearing loss. That is why we strongly encourage the use of ear plugs whenever you are exposing your ears to loud sounds. We devised our hi-fidelity DownBeats ear plugs for that exact purpose, to provide a low-cost solution for anyone in direct contact with loud audio, and in particular music. We devised our key chain container so that you can have access to hearing protection wherever you are, no matter how impromptu and unexpected the party is.
New technology, however, is bringing good news to all those who are affected by hearing loss and appreciate the risks connected with long exposure of the ears to loud sounds. A team at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear has announced that their findings could help reverse some of that damage, mimicking some animals’ ability to regenerate the hair, potentially reversing hearing loss in the process.
As reported by Techcrunch: “The technology utilizes cells derived from the cochlea of mice. Adding additional molecules to the immature cells during the process caused them to grow into mature hair cells — yielding 60 times the result of other technologies.”
“We only need to promote the proliferation of these supporting cells, and then the natural signaling cascade that exists in the body will drive a portion of those cells to become hair cells,” BWH associate professor Jeffrey Karp has stated.
The team’s belief is that applying this technology on humans can produce the same results in reversing hearing loss. The testing process is set to start within the next 18 months, courtesy of new MIT spinoff, Frequency Therapeutics.
“We don’t want to provide false hope, but we are highly encouraged by this work. And our ability to produce bona fide functional hair cells is very compelling,” Karp said.
Other expects remain positive, however. “Their proposal is very novel and essentially by activating these supporting cells, a natural process will take over and a certain percentage would become hair cells capable of playing a role in the encoding of sound,” said Nicolas Reed, an instructor in otolaryngology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “I don’t see any obvious negative indications right now.”