Turning Down the Volume: Breakthrough Research Targets Hearing Loss Prevention! 

17 percent of adults have reported hearing loss in the US due to exposure to loud sound, experts showed the excess presence of Zinc in the inner ear as the possible cause of hearing loss.
17 percent of adults have reported hearing loss in the US due to exposure to loud sound, experts showed the excess presence of Zinc in the inner ear as the possible cause of hearing loss. Credit | Getty images

United States: The United States is one of the countries with 17 percent of adults having hearing loss brought about by exposure to too loud sounds. It could be due to a band at a wedding, an explosion on a battlefield, or the constant drone of machinery, etc. 

Once the evidence is clear that these noises cause trauma and hearing loss, then more preventative measures can be taken. In a paper published in a scientific journal on Monday, a research team from the University of Pittsburgh has contributed expertise, showing that the excess of zinc in the inner ear (in a specific form) is the possible cause of hearing loss, reported Seattle Times stated. 

More about the study 

By taking out some surplus zinc in mice essentially, the scientists were able to escape hearing loss and retain their hearing capability. 

Thanos Tzounopoulos, professor and vice chair of research in the department of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh said, “Hearing loss is a huge problem,” and, “This can hopefully provide some sort of preventative treatment.” 

The research, among other things, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exposed mice to the sound of 100 decibels for 2 hours and then, using the technologies to study the zinc (the form of the element not bound to the protein), followed what was happening in the inner ear’s “labile” zinc area, reported by the Seattle Times. 

The fact that free-floating zinc is responsible for worse strokes and injuries of the optic nerve not only, has not been connected directly with loss of hearing. 

According to Tzounopoulos, the researchers found, “a huge dysregulation of zinc signaling” after the noise exposure, and added further, “There was much more of the zinc, it was in different locations — it was all over.” 

In the next experiment step, they injected mice first with a slow-delivering gel solution that contains a chemical that removes freely circulating zinc. 

By placing electrodes to measure the auditory brain responses while giving to the mice first the chelation solution and later, the control solution, the researchers observed a considerable enhancement of the hearing in the first group when compared to the second. 

What influences felt after the exposure? 

Consequentially, the influence the mice could hear well even after 14 days from the day they were exposed if they were given the chelation injection while those who didn’t could not hear well after that certain time frame, reported by the Seattle Times. 

The study raised the question as to what caused the change, said Tzounopoulos, a research director at the Pittsburgh Hearing Research Center in Pitt’s School of Medicine. 

One of the ways is to concentrate on the chemistry of the chelation substance to anticipate safety for future administration to people in the end. They will also look at what occurs when the treatment is given subsequently to noise exposure, and not after. 

The appearance of zinc concentration in the mice shows that there is a probability that a vitamin taken immediately after a poisoning would significantly reduce hearing loss. 

Tzounopoulos said, “Let’s say there is a blast or an accident and within the first day, you give the chelator,” and, “If you go fast, you have a chance,” the Seattle Times stated. 

The research team consisted of first author and postdoctoral student Brandon Bizup, undergraduate Sofie Brutsaert, assistant professor of neurobiology Amantha Thathiah, and assistant professor of otolaryngology Christopher Cunningham, who were from the University of Pittsburgh