Compound AC102 shows promise in restoring hearing

Photo credit: Chokniti Khongchum

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A report in The Hearing Review discusses research done in Germany demonstrating that a new compound may reverse noise-induced hearing loss. The small-molecule compound was developed to treat sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a relatively rare condition in which patients suddenly develop hearing loss without any obvious cause. Current treatment involves high dose corticosteroids, but this doesn’t always work. If it does work, it doesn’t restore hearing to normal levels.

The researchers were looking for an experimental model to see if the drug worked. They decided to use the new compound to treat noise-induced hearing loss in guinea pigs, one of several commonly used animals for hearing loss research. To the researchers’ surprise, the compound worked on noise-induced hearing loss.

The two “holy grails” of hearing loss treatment are complete restoration of hearing, something recently accomplished in children with congenital deafness by gene therapy, and finding a treatment that reverses hearing loss after noise exposure. This new drug may be the second “holy grail.”

There are many caveats. Humans are not guinea pigs, and the drug has to be injected into the middle ear. And, it usually takes many years until a drug shown to work in animals is approved for humans. 

Prevention of disease is usually better than treatment. This is certainly true for noise-induced hearing loss, the only type of hearing loss that is 100% preventable. Avoid loud noise, turn down the volume, leave the noisy environment or use hearing protection.

If it sounds loud, it’s too loud and your auditory health is at risk.

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