If you’ve been waiting for a miracle cure for hearing loss, it might be on the horizon. Sort of. As always, there are no guarantees yet–that’s why we use the word “promising” and not “revolutionary.”
Still, it’s hard not to get excited. Sensorineural hearing loss–that specific type of hearing loss caused by damage to the tiny hairs in your ear–has always been essentially incurable. Once those tiny hairs succumb to damage (the kind of damage caused by loud noises), they’re gone forever.
It always seemed a little ridiculous to me that those tiny hairs–of all things–were something your body couldn’t find the wherewithal to heal, but that’s just the way it is.
Turns out, maybe our ears just needed a little help.
Ear Injections Show Signs of Helping Cure Hearing Loss
Researchers at a company called Frequency Therapeutics (very on the nose, don’t you think? Er… on the ear?) have unveiled the results from a trial of a product called FX-332 (eventually, their marketing department will give it a catchy name, don’t worry).
According to the trial, conducted by Frequency, injections of FX-332 showed promising results. Here are the highlights:
- The injections are designed to promote the growth of more hairs in the ear (leading to better hearing).
- Many of those with “stable” sensorineural hearing loss showed improvements in hearing tests when compared to individuals who had only been given a placebo.
- The improvements showed relatively quickly–patients were only monitored for a number of months.
- There were no serious adverse side effects in this particular group of subjects (which is always something you look for when you’re testing new pharmaceuticals).
The success of this treatment depends on something called a “small-molecule drug.” Other approaches to curing hearing loss have depended on advanced gene therapies–and right now both avenues of research seem to show promise. This first round of tests of FX-332 (I hope they call it something clever, like “mEARicle”… yeah… they know where to find me) seems to show the most promise (and hope) so far.
Before You Get Your Hopes Up
But there are a few important things to keep in mind. First of all, this is still at the “promising” stage. The first round of trials was a small scale proving ground to set the stage for larger-scale tests. And then there’s a whole process for approvals after that. Even if this injection lives up to the hype, it’ll be years before it hits the marketplace.
And second, this is a very small trial. Small trials, by their nature, can sometimes exaggerate results in one direction or another. It’s why large-scale trials and tests are usually a little more reliable. So, FX-332 still has a lot to prove; but that’s just part of the process. And that will be true for any other “promising” treatment that follows.
Your Best Bet Is Still Protecting Your Ears and Treating Hearing Loss
Until there’s a veritable cure for hearing loss, your best bet is still going to be ensuring that your ears are protected from damaging sounds.
I know that earplugs just aren’t as, well, cool as miraculous ear injections, but they’re the tried and true method for now. Sensorineural hearing loss is almost always caused by exposure to damaging levels of noise; it’s not all rock concerts and jackhammers, because sometimes something as banal as driving in the city can damage your ears.
So take care, put some earplugs in, and monitor the volume level on your earbuds. Frankly, that sounds a lot more comfortable than an injection into your eardrum (ouch!).
If you have hearing loss, speak with a specialist to see if hearing aids are right for you. Hearing aids have been proven to help prevent the known side effects of hearing loss, such as dementia, depression, and increased risk of falls.
Various companies are all competing, and various approaches continue to show a lot of promise.
So, it is entirely possible that hearing loss will be a curable condition one day. The promising research around small-molecules is just the first step.