Nicola George. Action on Hearing Loss.
Cochlear implants allow profoundly deaf people, for whom hearing aids provide little benefit, to hear by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. For some people who receive a cochlear implant, the level of improvement in their hearing is not as great as expected. The biotech company Autifony Therapeutics are planning a clinical trial to test their experimental drug, AUT00063, in people with cochlear implants who are not gaining the expected benefit from their device. AUT00063 acts on nerves that carry sound signals from the ear to the brain and the researchers hope that this treatment will improve the transmission of nerve signals from the implant to the brain and increase the benefit that people get from a cochlear implant, especially in the perception of speech.
Over recent years, improvements in cochlear implant technology and surgical techniques have meant that cochlear implants can be given to people who have some residual natural hearing in the implanted ear. This allows people to benefit from “artificial” hearing through the implant while still being able to use any natural hearing that remains in the same ear (usually a degree of low frequency hearing). However there is a risk that this residual natural hearing will deteriorate over time due to the effects of the implant on the remaining sensory cells of the inner ear. In a clinical trial planned to start in the middle of 2016, the biotech company Auris Medical will test if administering their experimental medicine AM-111 during cochlear implant surgery will reduce the risk of progressive loss of residual natural hearing by blocking one of the biological pathways that causes sensory cells in the ear to die.