New medication may reverse hearing loss

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 3:54 PM EST
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Millions of people suffer from age-related hearing loss. It's just a fact of life for most.

While there are options for those who are struggling to hear, a new medicine to treat hearing loss may be on the way.

Ninety-two-year-old Lois Kander's story is stocked with love and laughter.

"I always did get up in the morning, take a shower, do my hair and laugh at myself, but I'm having fun doing it," she said.

But it hasn't been fun not being able to share in conversations like she used to. Like millions, Lois is experiencing age-related hearing loss.

"People are telling you things and they think you're listening, and in a way you are listening, but you can't hear everything that they're saying and you get disgusted," Kander said.

"You can buy pills that reduce pain, help stomach and help you sleep, but there are no drugs or medications to improve hearing," said Dr. Robert D. Frisina, director of the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research at the University of South Florida.

But that could soon change. Frisina has found that combining the hormone aldosterone with anti-inflammatory medication can slow hearing loss.

"In a sense, we're making the ear younger because we're giving this critical hormone," he said.

"I could go give you a list of all the people that I know that I have to pat them on their shoulder when I'm calling out their name because they didn't hear," Kander said.

"It could be for everyone because we're all going to lose our hearing as we get older," Frisina said.

In the meantime, Kander loves to dress to impress. She's a self-described fashionista, a woman with a sharp fashion sense and a savvy scientist whose work may someday sharpen the senses.

Frisina says ideally the medication would be delivered in a patch, not pills, since pills are systemic and also pills rely on compliance. A patch could allow consistency and be changed out weekly.

His patent was recently approved for the medication but still needs Food and Drug Administration approval.




REPORT: MB #4686

BACKGROUND: The loss of hearing that gradually occurs as we grow older is referred to as agerelated hearing loss. Approximately one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related hearing loss you may not realize that you've lost some of your ability to hear. The most common cause of age related hearing loss arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role. (Source:

SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: The most common symptoms of age-related hearing loss are the speech of others sounding mumbled or slurred; high-pitched sounds, such as "s" or "th" become hard to distinguish; conversations are difficult to understand, particularly when there is background noise; men's voices are easier to hear than women's; some sounds seem overly loud and annoying; and, tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, may occur in one or both ears. Treatment options for age-related hearing loss may include hearing aids; assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers or technology that converts speech to text; training in speech-reading (to use visual cues to determine what is being said); or even techniques for preventing excess wax in the outer ear. (Source:

HIGH-TECH ADVANCES: With today's technology, solutions to hearing loss are being developed both within the ear and beyond the ear. From digital bluetooth-connected hearing aids that work with devices like televisions and other sound systems to stream audio to designs that fit invisibly in the ear canal, each can be programmed to the individual frequency needs of the listener. Robert Jackler, MD, the Edward C. and Amy S. Sewall Professor in Otorhinolaryngology, professor of neurosurgery and of surgery at Stanford says, "Wearing something on your ear will be a badge of technological prowess rather than a marker of age and infirmity." Another intervention that Jackler hopes will become a reality soon is a biological cure for hearing loss. Through the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss, more than a hundred scientists and technicians are working to cure inner-ear hearing loss, the type that results from hair cell degeneration, which remains incurable today. (Source: