Hearing Disorders comprise different kinds of hearing loss. One happens when the inner ear or auditory nerve is damaged – this is permanent. Another kind of hearing loss happens when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear – earwax build-up, fluid or a punctured eardrum can cause this. In addition, autoimmune hearing loss can occur when the immune system attacks the inner ear. If this is detected and treated early with steroids, 60 percent of people can recover their hearing. But, unfortunately, for those who steroids don’t help, there are no other available treatments. Once hearing is lost, hearing aids help, but they do not select specific sounds that a person wants to hear (for example, it’s difficult to discern specific sounds in a noisy room) – a normal brain would do this naturally.
Feinstein Institute researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial to test novel therapies that could restore natural hearing in people who do not respond to steroids. In addition, they are working to identify new biological markers that would distinguish those who are steroid-sensitive and steroid-resistant prior to treatment.
A Feinstein Institute principal investigator who is conducting hearing disorders research is Andrea Vambutas.