New drug to be tested to stop both hearing loss and tinnitus

The first drug treatment for both hearing loss and tinnitus is being tested on patients in the UK. The trial, due to commence shortly, is to act on brain cells involved in the processing of sound. Around 50% of men and women in the UK over 60 suffer with hearing loss and 10% of the population suffers with tinnitus.

For age related hearing loss, noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus there is no cure. As a result of the onset of age related hearing loss later in life some people only become aware that they have noise induced hearing loss long after it has been caused. This means that people are not aware of noise damage to their ears until they get older. The only options of treatment and help available to people currently with hearing loss are hearing aids or cochlear implants but both are expensive and there can be significant delays in obtaining these because of the demand for treatment in hospitals in the UK for hearing loss.

The most common types of hearing problems that can develop are:-

  • Age related hearing loss which arises as a result of changes in the inner ear due to getting older.
  • Noise induced hearing loss which is brought on by the exposure to significant levels of noise for a significant period of time without hearing protection.
  • Tinnitus which is the perception of sound in the ears where there is no obvious source.

There have been many trials conducted to try to prevent the continuance of hearing loss but the majority have had limited results. The trial is being led by the University College of London Hospital and will involve 10 other hospitals in the UK to embark on the clinical trial. The trial will take 150 patients who will each take four pills every day for four weeks. The new drug developed works on a protein, Kv3, which helps to form pores on the surface of nerve cells in the area of the brain connected to hearing.  These pores allow potassium to enter the cells to help signals strengthen to the ear. Where the Kv3 protein has been found to have been damaged as a result of the aging process, the reintroduction of the protein will help to renew these cells.  The trial will be focusing on patients who have had tinnitus for between 6 and 18 months and if the trial is successful, will look to use people who have had long term tinnitus.

Some of those individuals being tested may have tinnitus and noise induced hearing loss and so this may develop treatments for noise induced hearing loss sufferers whose inner ear cells are damaged as a result of noise.

Noise induced hearing loss is most commonly associated with people who have worked in heavy noise environments throughout their lifetime and have worked in industries such as steelworks, paper mills, construction and demolition, wood working, engineering, shipbuilding and have had to use noisy power tools and noisy machinery on a daily basis.

If you have worked in a noisy environment during your working life and are suffering with hearing loss and/or tinnitus, then you may be entitled to seek compensation for noise induced hearing loss.

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