Researchers have designed a pill to prevent the hearing loss caused by loud rock music and other deafening noise. Animal tests suggest it may work weeks after the earsplitting event has taken place. “The data suggest you could take it before going into battle?or into a rock concert,” says David Karlman, chairman of American Biohealth. The Deafness Research Foundation estimates that 10 million hearing impairments in the U.S. come from exposure to loud sounds.
The U.S. military will be a major customer for the pill, since it receives 22,000 hearing loss disability claims each year and pays out $300 million in compensation. The pill will prevent or halt the deterioration of the “hair cells” inside the inner ear that causes hearing loss. There are around 15,000 of them in each ear and they do not naturally regrow once they?re lost. But delivering antioxidants to the cells can slow down the deterioration process.
Under ordinary conditions, the minute bundles of hair cells in the inner ear, called stereocilia, are completely replaced every 48 hours. This may explain why, on average, people experience 2 days of temporary hearing loss after exposure to loud music or excessive noise, like drilling. Bechara Kachar of the National Institute on Deafness in Bethesda, Maryland, says, “Stereocilia bend in response to sound waves and it is thought that excessive exposures from rock concerts or gunshots cause the stereocilia to make extreme bending movements.? If they the tiny hair filaments bend too far, they can?t recover and regrow, leading to permanent deafness.
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