I have relayed the facts about hearing loss in various editorials over the years and this news segment will be no exception, as awareness is key to a greater understanding and an early diagnosis. Consistent global research and surveys dictate that by 2050 the amount of people with some level of hearing loss will rise to 2.45 billion.
A worrying figure when you think that hearing loss is heavily linked to anxiety, social isolation, and depression. As the increase in hearing impairment shows no signs of stopping, we are left wondering whether there will be any advancement in research into hearing loss anytime soon. Recently studies have been published indicating a new treatment focusing on the stria vascularis in the cochlea and it has uncovered some exciting statistics.
Even though there are successful forms of treatment for various levels of hearing loss, like hearing aids and cochlea implants, there is no cure or preventative. However, recent studies published in the American Journal of Human Genetics have found ten new genes that are linked with hearing loss, and in addition, the section of the ear affected. This is known as the stria vascularis.
With this new genes and hearing loss research, they are challenging the understanding that age-related hearing loss usually starts from the sensory hair cells. These cells are in the outer ear that amplifies sound as well as in the inner ear that transfers these sound vibrations into electrical signals directed to the brain to make sense of.
Instead, the studies indicate that the stria vascularis, which is a section of the cochlea that enables the hair cells' mechanical-to-electrical signal conversion as a potential focus to help those with hearing loss. They identified forty-eight genes linked with hearing loss and a further ten new variants also linked to hearing.
In short, these new variants show the necessity of genes expressed in the cochlea (including the stria vascularis) and the mechanism of hearing loss.
The link between the stria vascularis and hearing loss has always been a theory, but there has never been any evidence to support this until now. With these new findings - backed by evidence and not theory - there is potential to target and screen genes to develop new treatments and instigate improvements in existing treatments in the future.
Although this new genes and hearing loss data is a positive step in the right direction, in reality, it is years of work in progress and such improvements are likely to be hearing aid and cochlea implant advancements.
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