Hearing loss and vitaminsBy Jill Pease • Published: August 18th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Could the next treatment for hearing loss come in a pill? According to two new studies, vitamin supplements can prevent hearing loss in laboratory animals, bringing investigators one step closer to the development of a pill that could stave off noise-induced and perhaps even age-related hearing loss in humans.
The vitamins used in the research studies… beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and magnesium… are available over-the-counter and are safe for long-term use. Researchers believe the supplements prevent hearing damage by scavenging free radicals, which destroy healthy inner ear cells.
A team led by a University of Florida researcher gave laboratory animals the vitamins before exposure to noise at one-hundred-ten decibels, similar to levels reached at a loud concert. The supplements successfully prevented temporary hearing loss in the animals.
In a second animal study, the supplements prevented permanent hearing loss that occurs after a single loud sound exposure. The vitamins also protected an inner ear structure that is linked to age-related hearing loss in humans.
The researchers are now conducting clinical trials of the supplements in college students who wear MP3 music players, and in soldiers and factory workers in Europe.
If the trials show that the vitamins are as effective in preventing noise-induced hearing loss in humans as they have been in animals, the researchers envision an easy-to-use supplement that could come in the form of a pill for people headed to a rock concert, a daily supplement for factory workers or a nutritional bar included in soldiers’ rations.