Epilepsy drugs could prevent hearing loss

A research group at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that two anti-epileptic drugs can prevent permanent hearing loss to a significant degree in mice exposed to loud noises. According to Jianxin Bao, Ph.D., research associate professor of otolaryngology and head of the Central Institute for the Deaf's Presbycusis and Aging Laboratory, the research could bear fruit for soldiers on the battlefields of the future. Others could benefit as well. About 28 million Americans have a hearing impairment, and excessive noise is the predominant cause of permanent hearing loss. At least 30 million people in the United States encounter hazardous levels of noise at work, particularly in jobs such as construction, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and the military.

"The military has a tremendous need for preventing noise-induced hearing loss," Bao says. "But others would also benefit. For example, many hunters have hearing loss on the side where they hold their gun, and pilots are especially prone to hearing loss because of the noise in airplane cabins. Protective equipment or earplugs aren't always appropriate, and right now no drug on the market can prevent or treat noise-induced hearing loss."

- see the release on the new research