Hearing loss affects one in six Australians1 and over 360 million people worldwide2. Although many live with some form of auditory loss, with the help of hearing aids and other treatments, a cure is yet to be found.
However, a scientific breakthrough may have discovered the answer – and it's not what you might expect.
Hearing loss affects one in six Australians and over 360 million people worldwide.
Three blind mice or three mice with hearing loss?
The ground breaking study was centred around a group of deaf rodents. The first of its kind, the research from St Jude Childrens Hospital used genetic manipulation to regenerate auditory hair cells in profoundly deaf adult mice3.
Member of the St Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology, Dr Jian Zuo, placed his initial focus on animals which were capable of natural hair cell regeneration – chickens and fish. The process that allows this to take place involves the regulating and un-regulating of the protein Atoh13 .
Taking a specially bred species of mouse, Dr Zuo and his team successfully managed to copy the above process.
Why are auditory hair cells so vital?
Auditory hair cells respond to sound vibrations with immense speed and sensitivity. They change these vibrations into electrical signals which then get passed along to the brain where they can be interpreted and processed.
Unfortunately, humans only have around 16,000 auditory hair cells in the cochlea and once damaged, they do not regenerate. The deterioration of hair cells can be down to loud noise, illness or ageing.
We only have around 16,000 auditory hair cells in the cochlea and once damaged, they do not regenerate.
How can this discovery help humans?
Although the predominant focus was on tiny animals, the huge impact that these results could have on humans in the future is extraordinary. Because the scientists were capable of manipulating inner-ear cells to look and act like young auditory hair cells, the regrowth of auditory hair cells in an adult mammal was possible3.
Around this ground-breaking scientific phenomenon, a lot is still yet to be done for humans to reap the benefit.
If you or anybody you know is living with hearing loss, don't be afraid to seek help from our expert team at AudioClinic. We can work out which treatment is best suited to your needs and get you on track to happier hearing. Book your FREE* hearing check here, or give us a call on 1800 940 984.
1HICA, About hearing loss. Accessed June, 2017
2World Health Organisation, Deafness and hearing loss. Accessed June, 2017
3St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Success of sensory cell regeneration raises hope for hearing restoration. Accessed June, 2017