people in the United States with numbers on the rise. This type of hearing loss can affect not only our soldiers returning home from war, but also kids and students who listen to music blasting through their headphones.
This rising trend caused researchers and physicians at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute to initiate a fascinating study in hopes to reverse this trend through the use of a combination of mineral magnesium and vitamins. Researchers are excited because their study has had promising results that this could be a possible way to prevent this type of hearing loss that is caused by loud noises. While successful in the laboratory, researchers are now testing as to whether it will be as beneficial for humans too.
"The prevention of noise induced hearing loss is key," says Glenn E. Green, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Health System and director of the U-M Children's Hearing Laboratory. "When we can't prevent noise-induced hearing loss through screening programs and use of hearing protection, then we really need to come up with some way of protecting people who are still going to have noise exposure. My hope is that this medication will give people a richer, fuller life."""1
Formerly, until the late 1990’s, scientists thought that noise destroyed the fragile inner structure of the ear because of the intense vibrations that is initiated by the noise. It was thought at the time that the only protection was to use something like ear plugs to help prevent the intense sound from reaching the inner ear, but it wasn’t always very effective. Then researchers discovered that noise actually causes an intense metabolic activity in the inner ear which then produces molecules that damage the inner ear cells. This is what led researchers to come up with a discovery that perhaps by intervening in this metabolic process, it would be able to help prevent the effects.
Hearing loss commonly occurs, Green says, when loud noises trigger the formation of molecules inside the ear and these molecules cause damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. The cells then shut down and scar, and they cannot grow back.1 University of Michigan researchers discovered that by combining the magnesium with the vitamins, that it could block some of the molecular reactions and prevent noise-induced damage to the ears.
"If we can even see 50 percent of the effectiveness in humans that we saw in our animal trials, we will have an effective treatment that will very significantly reduce noise-induced hearing impairment in humans. That would be a remarkable dream," says co-lead researcher Josef M. Miller, Ph.D., the Lynn and Ruth Townsend Professor of Communication Disorders and director of the Center for Hearing Disorders at the U-M Department of Otolaryngology's Kresge Hearing Research Institute.2
The implications of this could be especially noteworthy when you take into account that the Department of Defense spends more than a billion dollars just for compensation in connection to the loss of hearing. Soldiers who develop this hearing loss while serving in the line of duty are often exposed to a great deal of explosive devices. Significantly, more than a third of our soldiers can not be redeployed because of hearing impairment. Not only would this preventive health measure save the military an enormous amount of money in terms of long term care, but it could make a huge difference in the quality of life for the soldiers affected.2