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Biotech Medicine Science

Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the assimilating-individual-organs dept.
sciencehabit writes "Many people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from perfect. They often have trouble distinguishing different musical pitches, for example, or hearing a conversation in a noisy room. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using cochlear implants to deliver new genes into the ear — a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing (abstract)."
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Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing

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  • Needles in the ears? =:O

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @05:58PM (#46828075)

    distinguish different musical pitches? That's good.

  • Many humans can't afford a top of the line hearing aid.

    • Many humans can't afford top of the line *anything*. Sufficiently advanced hearing aids can be affordable if you go through the right channels (HINT: anybody but an audiologist)

      • by umafuckit (2980809) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @07:24PM (#46828715)
        A cochlear implant is not a "hearing aid", which is a microphone and speaker inside the ear canal. A hearing aid is basically a modern ear trumpet, because it drives the cochlear with sound waves via the ear drum. A cochlear implant, on the other hand, is a neural prosthesis. Electrodes are surgically inserted into the cochlear and "sound" is delivered via direct electrical stimulation that drives the auditory sensory neurons. These devices allow people who would otherwise be 100% deaf to hear, assuming that their auditory nerve is intact and the innervation of the cochlear is still present. The problem, however, is that these implants have relatively few electrodes (of the order of 10 or so) and this results in a distorted picture of the world. Here are details with photos of the surgery [brown.edu].
    • welcome to a for-profit healthcare system.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    No matter how much DNA I put in my girlfriend's ear, she still can't hear me yelling "turn your head dammit!"

  • ...those with hearing loss related tinnitus. (At least some sufferers are experiencing the ringing related to their nervous system treating the lost frequency spaces as 'always on' to generate the ongoing ringing.)

    • by mellon (7048)

      Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, their technique doesn't actually work—the nerve cells die off after six weeks. Sigh. Hopefully they will figure out why and fix it... :}

  • by lophophore (4087) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @06:34PM (#46828397) Homepage

    This is an article about "hearing loss." Much hearing loss is preventable.

    Use hearing protection now.

    Use hearing protection when running your leaf blower, weed whacker, power sander, lawn mower, and especially when making like a war-mongering imperialist at the shooting range. Use hi-fi hearing protection at rock concerts and loud clubs.

    Once your hearing is damaged, it is not recoverable, unless you become The Bionic Woman -- and for about 50% of us, that is pretty much completely impossible.

    Hearing protection is cheap. I like the Etymotic ER20 for rock concerts. Maybe I look silly wearing them. But... I can still hear after the show. I really don't care if people think I look silly. I've been to some literally deafening rock concerts, and my ears have suffered for it... Now I always bring (and wear!) my ear plugs to shows, And I use hearing protection when running noisy power equipment.

    • Also: Not just power tools - hammering nails or anything else. Sharp blows are terrible for your hearing because your inner ear bones don't have time to adjust and attenuate the signal.
    • by mellon (7048)

      Yup, also when riding a motorcycle. Speaking from experience...

    • such a true post.
    • I have a classic artillery notch, and there's no way this is going to help me. My hearing loss, btw, isn't from rock concerts, it's a long-term effect of my being exposed to too much outbound shore support back in '72. Yes, when I was topside I had proper hearing protection. Alas, I slept in the forward berthing compartment two decks down and about 50' back from the 5"/54 gun mount, and nobody realized that we should have been using ear plugs down there. One morning, I woke up and found out that there'd
    • by Alejux (2800513)

      "Once your hearing is damaged, it is not recoverable"

      Isn't the whole point of the article to show us that that statement is wrong?

      This is what regenerative medicine is all about. A decade or two from now, you'll see that a lot of the problems we face now with "irreversible" damage to the body and loss of tissue, will be treatable and made reversible by regenerative medicine. That includes damaged ears, ligaments, bones, skin, and a bunch of other tissues and organs.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      I wish my parents had told me this before I caused permanent tinnitus during my later teenage years going to concerts and playing in a band (back when I thought it was cool that my ear were ringing three days after the Iron Maiden concert...).

      I protect my ears now, but I will never experience silence again, just the ringing.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @07:17PM (#46828667) Homepage

    Cure Tinnitus... more people suffer from that infernal ringing than anything else....

  • by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @07:24PM (#46828719)
    Sure, but when I inject DNA into someone's ear I get put on the sex offender registry.
    • by Guppy (12314)

      Sure, but when I inject DNA into someone's ear I get put on the sex offender registry.

      Aural Sex will give you Hearing AIDS.

  • How similar are the 'hair' cells in the cochlea to regular hair? Two things come to mind: Rogaine(TM) and hair plugs. Maybe injections of Rogaine into the cochlea would prove fruitful. Or transplanting those fine hairs you have in various places into the cochlea will do the trick. I suffer from general hearing loss, and also have a brick wall at 3600hz... nothing after that. I would LOVE to be able to hear music as others hear it.
  • Exciting!

  • I suffer from Ménière's syndrome (tinnitus, hearing loss and balance problems - sometimes *severe* balance problems!). Once again, I find myself hopeful that this might be a miracle cure but I'm really not sure. If this does work, can it be used to improve balance too? Of all the symptoms, not being able to stand up and/or randomly falling over are much worse than the hearing loss (and I speak as someone who loves music!) or even the tinnitus.

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