More than 30 million Americans are deaf of which causes and severity vary with each person. Some people with hard of hearing use hearing aids to help improve their hearing. But others have to suffer the implications of being deaf, until when no one knows.
Almost 80% of the 30 million have the irreversible type deafness. The remaining percentage have a profound hearing loss. These profoundly hearing-impaired persons have few damaged sensory receptors in their ears called hair cells.
Role of Hair Cells
A cochlear implant is surgically placed electrodes into the cochlea. These electrodes bypass hair cells, stimulates the cochlea’s hearing nerve, and transmits the impulses to the brain perceived as sound. It then allows some deaf to comprehend speech without doing lip reading, listen to music, talk to someone on the telephone, and basically, live a normal life.
Hair Cells Regeneration
New findings show it might be possible to regrow damaged hair cells. Each ear has 15,000 hair cells. Exposure to loud noises is what causes it to be irreparably damaged that lead to hearing loss. While other parts of the ear can be repaired when damaged, repair of hair cells has not yet developed.
Continuous effort is being made to make this possible. The idea arose when hair cells were able to regrow cells in the intestinal lining. Using the same method, they were able to grow hair cells in mouse cochlea successfully without inducing any drugs. Hence, these hair cells grow naturally. Hopefully, this particular method can be developed further to be used to help people with hearing disabilities.
It is exciting to know that there is hope for the hearing-impaired people to be able to hear again. But even if the research turned out to be successful, not all deaf can benefit from it. It will not work for those with an inherited hearing loss.
However, if a person’s hair cells damage is due to gene mutation no drug yet can fix the problem. Even if they regenerate, they will still be dead hair cells because it will have the same variation, unless gene mutation is fixed through gene therapy.
Will Gene Therapy Works
Gene therapy is one of the newest research for recovering hearing of the deaf by fixing defective DNAs. Various tests in mice are showing positive results and giving hope to the scientists that it might be the ultimate answer to cure deafness. Gene therapy worked in mice but still needs to be tested to other animals and human cells before it can be stated that gene therapy is the future for the deaf to be able to hear again.
More research and test are still needed to be done to conclude if these hair cells regeneration and gene therapy are the future of those individuals suffering from deafness. More patience, determination, and positivity are needed until such time that doctors can replicate hearing.
It may take more years to perfect these types of newly found ways of recovering hearing, but it is exciting to think that a critical discovery of our time may help a lot of people with hearing disabilities.