An Injection of Salt in Your Eardrum Might Save You From a Lifetime of Hearing Loss
Kristin Houser on May 14, 2018
First, an explosion. Then, the sound cuts out. Dazed survivors look on as chaos silently unfolds all around them.
It’s a common trope in movies, but, yes, people do go deaf after a sudden loud noise. It’s even got a real medical name: noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and it affects roughly 15 percent of Americans. NIHL can be either temporary or permanent depending on how long a person heard it and how loud it was, and we currently have no way to reverse it.
Now, researchers have come up with a deceptively simple — though slightly cringe-inducing — treatment for NIHL: an injection of a salt or sugar solution directly into the eardrum.
In a study published last week in the journal PNAS, researchers from the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) Keck School of Medicine set out to figure out exactly what caused NIHL. They built a tool that would let them take detailed pictures of the cochlea, the part of the inner ear in which sound transforms into something your brain can interpret.
Rodent lovers, consider yourselves warned about this next bit: the researchers exposed the mice to super loud noises, comparable to the roadside bomb a soldier might come in contact with during combat, and took pictures of their cochleas before and after.
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