Scientists have been gathering evidence for years now from lab tests for a pill that might reduce damage to hearing caused by loud noise. Now the pill is about to be tested on humans. If all goes well, evidence will show that the new substance when dissolved in a drink can make a difference to the results of a hearing test.
This counts as just part of a large amount of ongoing research with the ultimate goal of creating a pill to minimize the effects caused by damage due to loud noise or even treat or prevent the damage completely. Although this research has been going on for some time, even more effort has been made in recent years.
The pill is not supposed to act as a replacement for ear protection such as ear protection. But instead, it will be used alongside the current protection available in a hope to prevent what is still a wide-ranging problem.
Noise induced hearing loss has the second highest number of reported cases for any occupational injury or illness. Long term exposure or a sudden burst of loud noise, such as an explosion, has left an estimated 10 million Americans with permanent hearing loss.
The number of people exposed to dangerous levels of noise in industries such as mining, construction, agriculture and mining is estimated at 30 million. Musicians are another high risk group.
Hearing loss does not always occur at work. Many hobbies also pose a threat to a person's hearing, including motorcycling and race car driving and recreational shooting. The amount of protection from earplugs and sound canceling headphones is good but it is not quite enough.
You could be at risk even when wearing the protection due to certain sounds. People tend to wear it less than they need to and hearing loss can also be more likely in some people than others. Sound can also cause damage to a person's hearing by penetrating some areas of the skull.
There have been different approaches to the task of creating a hearing protecting pill in the past. In 1994 researchers claimed that Israeli military recruits were able to avoid hearing loss due to magnesium supplements in their diet during basic training. A lot of the research these days is centered around antioxidants the chemicals that are present in vitamins C and E.
The reason for this is that the damage caused to hearing is not always directly related to the direct force of the sound. Instead, the damage is now known to be caused by chemicals called free radicals that the inner ear release after someone is exposed to high volumes.
The neutralization of free radicals by antioxidants occurs naturally in the ear. However, too much noise means that there are not enough antioxidants present. The hair like receptor cells in the ear can die due to too much damage from free radicals and they can no longer convert sound into nerve impulses. Once dead these cells cannot grow back so the hearing loss is permanent.
Increasing the ear's natural antioxidant defenses may prevent unnecessary damage and also treat damage that has just occurred. Animal experiments yielded very promising results for preventing damage to hearing. Some experts remain cautious when it comes to the effectiveness of this method on humans. To see whether the antioxidant will be useful on people further tests on animals are required with varying dose sizes and different sound levels.
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