New Hearing Medication? Biotech Startups May Have Solutions

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Dr. Howard Tamashiro

Is a pill for hearing loss a possibility?

Have you heard the buzz around new medications to treat hearing loss? Are there magical pills on the market that you can take to restore your hearing? With an aging population, hearing loss and hearing aids are hot topics, getting more attention every day. Has your daughter been bugging you to get hearing aids? Do you have trouble hearing your colleagues at work?

While hearing aids are still your best treatment option, and allow you to live a fulfilled life chalk full of sounds, biotech startup companies are making headway in pharmaceutical research that might deliver hearing loss pills within the next five to ten years!

Who Wants a Hearing Loss Pill?

Creating an alternative treatment method for hearing loss is becoming increasingly important. As the Baby Boomers hit their seventies, the number of people struggling with hearing loss is growing. By the age of seventy-five, half of all seniors have hearing loss. And it’s not only the aging population that suffers from hearing loss. With loud professions, intense rock concerts, and even traffic noises on our busy city streets, hearing loss is affecting almost 34 million Americans. Whether people don’t want to invest in hearing aids, deal with the daily hassle, or are afraid of what their family and friends will say, the market for a hearing loss pill is huge.

Pharmaceutical Treatments for Hearing Loss

Developing a medical treatment for hearing loss is complex. Hearing loss has many causes, and the ear is full of hair and nerve cells, intricate neural pathways, and millions of synaptic connections that carry auditory signals from the ear all the way to the brain.

While hearing aids focus on amplifying sounds to boost the little hearing you have left, drug treatments are completely different. They have to potential to actually restore your hearing! How is this done? Research in this area is ongoing, and a number of biotech startups have been gaining ground. A recent article in Fortune highlights some of these companies and the research they have been doing. To see the full article, visit fortune.com.

In the field of genetics, Audion and GenVec are researching gene therapy. GenVec is studying damaged cells, and they are developing a treatment program that will regenerate hair cells and restore hearing. Gene therapy could restore hearing right at the root!

A company researching drug therapy is Decibel. Based in Boston, this startup was founded in 2015 by Third Rock Ventures, and works closely with Charles Liberman, a professor of otolaryngology at Harvard. Based on Liberman’s 30 years of research on nerve fibers, they may be close to uncovering a drug treatment program for hearing loss. Never fibers are damaged before anything else in hearing loss, even beating the fragile hair cells in rates of decay. Decibel is finding a way to reconnect the nerve fibers with the hair cells to restore hearing before the hair cells are even damaged!

Maybe it’s not hearing loss you want to treat, but tinnitus, that annoying ringing in your ears. Biotechs have you covered there too. Otonomy, a company in San Diego, has been tirelessly researching the causes of tinnitus. They believe tinnitus is due to an overexcitement of the nerve fibers of the ear. They’re running clinical trials to reduce the activity level of the nerve cells, hopefully curing tinnitus once and for all!

However, unfortunately, experts say we won’t see pharmaceutical products on the market for a few years yet. This new field of research is gearing up for great things, and we’re excited to see what comes out of it. Biotechs could radically change the way we treat hearing loss in the coming years.

In the meantime, contact us at Hearing Centers of Hawaii for a consultation! We offer hearing aids with customizable advanced technology to meet our specific hearing needs.

Hearing Centers of Hawaii

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