Washington: A new way to test anti-hearing-loss drugs in people could help land those medicines on pharmacy shelves sooner.University of Florida researchers have figured out the longstanding problem of how to safely create temporary, reversible hearing loss in order to see how well the drugs work."There`s a real need for drug solutions to hearing loss," lead investigator Colleen Le Prell said."Right now the only options for protecting against noise-induced hearing loss are to turn down what you`re listening to, walk away from it or wear ear plugs, and those options may not be practical for everyone, particularly for those in the military who need to be able to hear threats," Prell said.Prevention is key because damage to hearing-related hair cells in the inner ear by loud noise is irreversible. Though hearing aids can help amplify sound and implanted devices can restore some sensation of sound for those with more profound hearing loss, they do not restore normal hearing.Thus, researchers are trying to find drugs that prevent hearing damage in the first place.Although prototype drugs have prevented noise-induced hearing loss in laboratory animals, it has been hard to know whether the same protection is possible in humans, largely because researchers lacked an effective method for the needed tests. Those tests are now achievable because of the UF efforts.The work brings scientists closer to the development of drugs that could help protect people at risk of hearing damage - from rock concert goers to factory workers and military personnel who are routinely exposed to noise as they work.Le Prell`s model is the first to use controlled music levels to reliably cause low-level, temporary hearing loss in human participants. Other studies have used beeps or tones, user-selected music levels, or music exposures that don`t result in temporary hearing loss. Three monitoring boards ensured that studies of the UF model met national safety standards for research in humans. Co-investigator Patrick Antonelli, M.D., the George T. Singleton Professor and chair of the UF department of otolaryngology, provided onsite supervision of study participant safety, and collaborators at the University of Michigan and Southern Illinois University were involved in study design and safety discussions.
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