Hearing loss is more common than you may realize. In the United States, 1 in 5 people over the age of 12 have hearing loss of some kind. When combined with the children who have hearing loss, that makes for 48 million Americans with hearing loss. For those who are aged 65 to 74 years old, approximately one third suffer from hearing loss. The numbers are even greater among those who are older, with nearly half of adults over the age of 75 experiencing hearing loss. Around the world, nearly 477 million people have hearing loss.
With numbers like these, it is apparent that any research that could lead to better ways to treat and even prevent hearing loss is extremely important. Hearing loss is not just inconvenient; it can entirely change a person’s life. People with age-related hearing loss often experience social isolation, loneliness, trouble communicating, depression, anxiety, and dementia.
These statistics and the conditions linked to hearing loss are only a small piece of the reality of hearing loss. However, a new hope may be on the horizon, thanks to groundbreaking research conducted by a team of scientists at University College London (UCL).
The scientists recently published a study in Scientific Reports that shows their findings related to hearing loss—in fruit flies. Before you assume that fruit flies are too far removed from humans to provide any promising research in the field of hearing loss, think again. The fruit fly is a powerful tool in biology, and when it comes to hearing, a fruit fly’s ear shares many molecular similarities with that of a human. Up until now, however, no studies had examined a fruit fly’s hearing ability over its lifetime.
In this new study, the researchers found that the antennal ears of fruit flies also display age-related hearing loss. They also discovered that certain genes are responsible for the fruit fly’s hearing ability over its lifespan. These two discoveries are groundbreaking on their own—because humans also suffer from age-related hearing loss, and many scientists have tried to identify the genes that control hearing ability in humans. This demonstrates that fruit flies are an ideal tool for learning more about how hearing loss could be treated in humans.
The researchers at UCL did not stop at these two major discoveries. They also found a way to manipulate some of the genes responsible for maintaining hearing sensitivity. With these manipulations, the scientists could prevent the flies from experiencing age-related hearing loss.
Because of the similarities between the hearing structures and genes of fruit flies and humans, this new research promises to lead to many more discoveries that could change how hearing loss is treated in humans. With further research and testing, scientists and doctors may one day be able to make genetic adjustments in humans that would eliminate age-related hearing loss.
To learn more about this exciting new research and how the promise it holds for the future of hearing healthcare, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to care for you!