Many cases of hearing loss – either due to natural aging or noise induced – are also progressive. The simple definition of progressive hearing loss is hearing loss that gradually becomes worse over time. Most people who have hearing loss have a progressive form. Progressive hearing loss happens when more and more sound-detecting sensory hair cells within the inner ear gradually become damaged and unusable.
Exciting new research from the United Kingdom recently made some interesting discoveries about a biological marker which may be a cause of progressive hearing loss. This new discovery could lead to new treatments to better assist those with hearing loss.
The research study was funded by UK based charity Action on Hearing Loss and conducted by researchers at King’s College London, the Welcome Trust Sangar Institute and the University College London. The researchers were using lab mice to investigate why the mice with a specific gene mutation suffered from progressive hearing loss. The mutation always occurred on the S1pr2 gene in the mice who suffered hearing loss.
During the study, researchers concluded that a degeneration of the stria vascularis as well as low endocochlear potential were correlated with the hearing-impaired mice. This study is significant to hearing loss in humans because this gene is also associated with a human’s ability to hear (https://www.news-medical.net/news/20160817/Researchers-discover-new-biological-mechanism-involved-in-progressive-hearing-loss.aspx).
Believe it or not, the stira vascularis is a body part you use every day, but have probably never even heard of. Stria vascularis is one of the many components of our complicated auditory system. The stria vascularis is the upper portion of the spiral ligament, which forms the outer lining of the cochlear duct. It contains many capillary loops and blood vessels, and it produces one of the fluids necessary for the maintenance of healthy hair cells. The hair cells are extremely important to our hearing, as they are responsible for turning sounds into electric signals that are sent to the brain for processing.
The potential impact of this study on the lives of those living with progressive hearing loss or who are at risk for the condition is great. Karen Steel, a professor at King’s College and the lead researcher on the study says of the findings, “Our finding suggests that designing treatments to boost the function of the stria vascularis could be important in treating some forms of progressive hearing loss. What is needed now are accurate ways of diagnosing what part of the ear is affected so that in the future the most appropriate treatment can be administered” (https://www.news-medical.net/news/20160817/Researchers-discover-new-biological-mechanism-involved-in-progressive-hearing-loss.aspx). Of course, more research is necessary in order to move forward on creating these treatments, but these findings do mean good things may be on the horizon.
Action Hearing Loss is the non-profit organization that funded this research. Action Hearing Loss is the world’s largest donor-supported hearing research program, and is dedicating to funding research that will help healthcare professionals in finding better cures and treatments for concerns such as hearing http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/how-we-help/businesses-and-employers/loss and tinnitus.
Action Hearing loss also does much more than fund research. They offer a plethora of useful information on their website, assist with communication and hearing aids, and help those suffering from hearing loss connect to supports they may need. The charity also offers training for businesses in hiring and supporting employees with hearing loss, installing hearing loops at places of employment and offers sign language training. This all-encompassing non-profit also works in schools and colleges in order to help education facilities and organizations better support their students who are deaf or have a hearing loss. To learn more about the great work being done by Action Hearing Loss, visit their website here: http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/
No matter the cause for your hearing loss, it is best to reach out to your local hearing aid specialists if you have noticed changes in your hearing. Reach out to our friendly team today to schedule your comprehensive hearing exam if you have noticed any of the early signs of hearing loss. We look forward to hearing from you and walking with you on your journey to improved hearing and a better quality of life!