Every year, scientists who conduct research in otolaryngology (the biomedical science that focuses on the ears, nose, and throat) come together and share with one another their latest and most exciting research discoveries at the Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO).
This year, the event (held February 9-14 in sunny San Diego) offered hours of scheduled events and symposia on some of the hottest topics in the field.
Hidden hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is caused by exposure to loud noise, which damages the connections between sensory cells in the inner ear and the nerves that carry the signal to the brain. Curiously, this type of hearing loss cannot be measured with an audiogram, as most other forms of hearing loss can be. The results for a person with hidden hearing loss are the same as for a person without hearing loss. This has stumped researchers, and many research dollars are being targeted to the study of this problem.
Ototherapeutics are medications developed for treating or reducing the side effects of hearing loss. It is another area in which hearing researchers are focusing their energy. Currently, there are no drug therapies available on the market for the treatment of hearing loss (this is one of Gateway Biotechnology’s major goals: to help provide treatment for people with hearing loss).
Another popular topic among hearing researchers is determining what processes are involved at the molecular level in causing hearing loss—processes that may be determined by our genes. Not only could this lead to helping create more ways to treat hearing loss, but it could individualize therapy. As an example of this, one researcher, Dr. Yingying Chen from Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio, presented her finding that the expression of certain calcium channels (T-type) in cells along the hearing pathway is associated with hidden hearing loss. This is consistent with findings made by researchers at Gateway. These T-type calcium channels (click to go to our Quick Reference page and learn more) play an important role in hearing loss. Based on this finding, Gateway will conduct further studies of various protective agents and gene therapies to help restore hearing.