Currently 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer with hearing loss. There is no cure for hearing loss and no drugs that are able to treat it. Patients either opt for hearing aids or cochlear implants which whilst working fantastically, don’t tackle the root cause of the hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Damage to the sensory hair cells in the cochlear is known as sensorineural hearing loss and is a major cause of hearing loss in later life. Previously, hair cell loss was thought to be irreversible but studies in animals now indicate that inner ear sensory hair cells could be regenerated. This happens using a small molecule substance called gamma-secretase inhibitor.
Researchers in London are now leading a trial to test a drug in patients with hearing loss based on these previous animal studies. Patients are eligible if they are aged 18-80 years; have lived with the symptoms of hearing loss for less than 20 years; have bilateral, symmetrical hearing loss; and use hearing aids or have been previously offered hearing aids. Phase 1 of this trial took place throughout 2018 and injections were given to 15 patients in their ear. These patients had mild to moderate sensory hearing loss so as to test the safety and tolerability of the drug.
Now it is time to move on to the next stage of the trial which will test the efficacy of the drug in 40 adults who have mild to moderate adult-onset sensorineural hearing loss. These 40 patients will receive 3 injections into their inner ear, through the eardrum.
Professor Shakeel Saeed, Professor of Otology and Clinical Director at RNTNEH and lead clinician on the REGAIN clinical trial, said: “We are very excited by this research and are thankful to all the participants in the study without whom we could not have delivered on this trial.”
Hearing loss can prevent and hinder participation in social situations, and the overall health and quality of life of people with hearing loss is poorer than that of the general population. Hearing loss has been identified as an important risk factor for dementia with mild hearing loss doubling the risk, and severe hearing loss increasing the risk of dementia five-fold.
Current treatments – hearing aids and cochlear implants – work by amplifying the sound waves entering a person’s ear, but have no impact on the underlying physical problems in the ear responsible for hearing loss, and don’t work well in noisy environments.
We eagerly await the results of the trial! If you would like any further information about hearing loss / aids, please do get in touch and we will be happy to help.