Exposure to loud noises and blasts may damage the cochlea and result in noise-induced hearing loss. Earlier studies claimed that NIHL would be irreversible if the extremely delicate structure of the cochlea had been damaged.
However, damage to hair and nerve-cells, caused by for example loud noises and blasts, may be reversible, according to a study by researchers from Stanford University of Medicine.
The study's findings may lead to the future development of medications and surgical techniques that could reduce any permanent cochlear damage, if treatment is commenced promptly after the blast.
Good news for soldiers and civilians
Damage to the ear is a prevalent condition among veterans and civilians in warzones, as they are frequently exposed to many loud noises and blast pressures.
More than 60% of wounded veterans sustain severe hearing problems, such as eardrum injuries, tinnitus and hearing loss. Also civilians often suffer long-term hearing loss, after surviving devastating bombs.
The findings of the study may therefore have particular significance for both military personnel and civilians in warzones.
Regenerating lost cells
With certain medication right after exposure to a blast, the damage to the ear might be limited and hearing loss reduced.
The findings of the study therefore mark significant progress concerning the treatment of hearing loss. Researchers hope to reach this goal and start human trials within 10 years.
However, reaching the goal will necessitate overcoming the challenge of regenerating lost hair and nerve cells within the cochlea. According to researchers, there is already significant work being carried out in relation to this challenge.
The study was published in the scientific journal ”?Plos One' by John Oghalai and his group of researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine.