Experts see hope in a simple solution to minimize hearing loss due to loud noises

Exposure to extremely loud noises, like an explosion, firecrackers or a music concert, is known to lead to permanent hearing loss. How to treat noise-induced hearing loss has largely been unknown.

Now, a group of scientists from the United States have recommended that a simple injection of a salt- or sugar-based solution into the middle ear may preserve hearing.

The group found that two things happened after exposure to a loud noise. The sensory hair cells, which detect sound and convert it to neural signals, die. The inner ear then fills with excess fluid, leading to the death of neurons.

The group found that the this buildup of fluid correlates with neuron loss. Both neurons and sensory hair cells play critical roles in hearing.

The researchers found that sensory hair cell death occurred immediately after exposure to loud noise. This is irreversible. However, neuron damage, has a delayed onset, which opens an opportunity for treatment.

The buildup of fluid in the inner ear contains high concentrations of potassium. To reverse the effects of the potassium and minimize the fluid buildup, salt- and sugar-based solutions were injected into the middle ear, just through the eardrum, three hours after noise exposure.

The researchers found that treatment with these solutions prevented 45-64% of neuron loss. This suggests that this treatment may help preserve hearing function.

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