Have you ever wished you could just take a pill and get rid of your hearing loss? You’re not the only one. Fiddling with hearing aids isn’t everyone’s ideal solution to hearing loss, even though it’s been shown that being fitted for hearing aids will completely change your life, making the struggles of hearing loss a vague memory. This has led to the rise of biotech startups researching drug based treatments for hearing loss. Piqued your interest?
What Are the Biotech Startups Doing?
With rising numbers of people struggling with hearing loss, finding new treatments for hearing loss is a hot topic. Biotechs are springing up to answer this need, and are researching new possibilities for hearing loss. The future might be closer than you think. Unlike hearing aids which work to amplify the sounds you hear, to help whatever hearing you have left, pharmaceutical treatments would actually restore your hearing! This is complex research, since hearing is the product of millions of hair and nerve cells, many molecular pathways, and countless synaptic connections between your ears and brain that work to translate sound waves into hearing.
Highlighted in an article for Fortune, several American companies are making headway in finding drug treatments for hearing loss. You can see the article at fortune.com.
A leader in drug therapy for hearing loss is Decibel. This startup was founded in 2015 is Boston. It extends the 30 years of research by Charles Liberman, professor of otolaryngology at Harvard. Liberman has been observing and analyzing nerve fibers for years, and discovered that nerve fibers are damaged even before the delicate hair cells! This means treatment focused on the nerve cells could prevent damage to the hair cells, and cure hearing loss. Decibel is finding a pharmaceutical solution to reconnect the nerve fibers with the hair cells before any damage occurs.
Another drug treatment being researched is a pharmaceutical that could cure tinnitus! Ready to say goodbye to the endless ringing or buzzing in your ears whenever the room goes quiet? Otonomy, a San Diego biotech startup, wants to make that dream a reality. Extensive research has led them to a possible cause of tinnitus. They believe tinnitus is the result of an over-activity of the nerve fibers of the ear. They’re currently running clinical trials to isolate the over-activity, and reduce the activity levels, curing tinnitus!
Not all the startups are focusing on drugs. Audion and GenVec are researching genetic solutions to hearing loss. With gene therapy, GenVec hopes to repair damaged hair cells and restore hearing.
The Demand for Alternative Treatments
Developing an alternative treatment method for hearing loss has never been more important. With baby boomers getting older, and the growing number of young adults facing hearing loss from noisy careers, concerts, city traffic or abuse of personal listening devices, hearing aids are still the only way to treat hearing loss. As you can imagine, not everyone wants to get hearing aids, whether it’s the initial investment, or the hassle of daily hearing aid care. Many people are shy to get hearing aids due to what their friends or family might think. But, your family and loved ones are there to support you and will be proud of your courage for acknowledging your hearing loss, and taking steps to hear fully. All that aside, it’s easy to see how the demand for pharmaceutical treatments is high.
With all this research going on, when can we expect to see hearing loss pills on the shelf? Biotechs are making headway, and experts say it’s possible that within five or ten years, we will see other treatment options. This new field is all set for a breakthrough, and we’re excited to see what happens next. In the meantime, hearing aids continue to be the best and most effective treatment for hearing loss.