Healthy Hearing

From the Life Extension Foundation

Researchers at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute are hopeful that a specific combination of nutrients could help protect the ear against hearing loss induced by loud noises. While the condition is of major concern among military personnel, preventing the return to duty of a large number of troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has also been identified as a potential threat to iPod users and others who listen to music through headphones at high volume.

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It had been believed until recently that noise causes hearing loss by mechanical vibrations which destroyed inner ear structures. The discovery that intense noise generates free radicals that damage the inner ear cells has led researchers to develop a protective formula that can be ingested prior to exposure to noisy environments. University of Michigan Healthy System assistant professor of otolaryngology Glenn E. Green, MD, and colleagues formulated the combination of vitamins A, C and E, and magnesium as a nutritional supplement. Pre-treatment with these nutrients reduces free radicals that form during and after noise exposure, and may also reduce damage to auditory neurons that can occur due to overstimulation. The supplement is being tested in military trials conducted in Sweden and Spain, a Spanish industrial trial, and a National Institute of Health-funded trial of University of Florida student iPod users. Laboratory studies have demonstrated a reduction in hearing impairment subsequent to noise exposure of approximately 80 percent in animals that received the nutrients.

“The prevention of noise induced hearing loss is key,” noted Dr Green, who is the director of the University of Michigan 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.”

“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,” added co-lead researcher says co-lead researcher Josef M. Miller, PhD, who is the director of the Center for Hearing Disorders at the Kresge Hearing Research Institute. “That would be a remarkable dream.”

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