The Actual Cause of Hearing LossSeptember 15, 2020
Many of us are aware of what hearing loss is and how it affects people on a daily basis. What few of us knew, until now, was what the exact physiological prerequisites are that result in hearing loss. Scientists from Harvard Medical School have recently reported in a study, that our sense of equilibrium and hearing is affected by a protein known as TMC1.
A single protein has the ability to send electrical signals resulting from sound transmission as well as head movements. Mutations in this simple protein called TMC1 is what results in hearing loss and even results in loss of balance. TMC1 is a tiny but very crucial protein that can hugely impact hearing health since it is responsible for converting sound signals as well as head movements into the electrical impulses that are interpreted by the brain.
The experiment involved mice, which showed a loss of 80% of ion flow due to the deterioration of TMC1. This basically meant that any damage to TMC1 results in significant loss of auditory signals that are sent to the brain.
Loss of hearing also has the ability to impact one’s sense of equilibrium. The Washington University School of Medicine recently published a study that reported that proper hearing is imperative in order to maintain proper balance. They found that those with hearing loss also had a poorer sense of balance than those who used hearing aids to treat their hearing loss.
Furthermore, another study conducted by the National Institute on Aging reported that even those with only a mild form of hearing damage have triple the likelihood of sustaining a fall compared to those with regular hearing. They also reported that the more severe the hearing loss, the higher the chances are of falling down due to loss of balance. Specifically, as hearing loss progresses by 10dB, the chances of falling increase by 1.4%.
Hearing loss currently affects 460 million people worldwide. In the United States, 24,000 infants are born annually with hearing damage. To think that all of these people are affected by a single protein called TMC1 is mindboggling! Now that the actual cause of hearing loss has been pinpointed, research is well under way to come up with treatment options to help restore TMC1 to its normal functioning capacity.
If successful treatment options are found, this will be a groundbreaking moment for those with hearing loss since for the first time ever, this could provide hope that hearing loss may someday become curable. Considering that hearing loss is the third most prevalent health condition in America, this comes as a very promising news and one to keep our fingers crossed for. After all, we live in hope.