New research into biology of progressive hearing loss

Action on Hearing Loss | Published online: 16 August 2016

New research with funding from UK charity Action on Hearing Loss has led to the discovery of a new biological mechanism involved in the progressive loss of hearing which could lead to new approaches to treating this common form of hearing loss.

It’s known that gradual loss of sound-detecting sensory hair cells within the inner ear is associated with progressive hearing loss, but now researchers from King’s College London, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and University College London have shown that defects in a structure within the ear called the stria vascularis, can also cause progressive hearing loss.

The stria vascularis is essential for normal hearing and is involved in maintaining the endocochlear potential – a difference in charged molecules between compartments of the inner ear which acts like a battery to power the transmission of sound signals from the ear to the brain.

Researchers made the discovery while investigating why mice with a specific mutation in a gene called S1pr2 have a progressive loss of hearing, and found degeneration of the stria vascularis and a low endocochlear potential in these mice correlated with their loss of hearing. Significantly, the gene in humans is also associated with changes in people’s ability to hear – making this discovery relevant to progressive hearing loss in the human population.

Read the full blog post here

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