A new drug to prevent noise-induced hearing loss have been tested by some researchers with the aim to improve the quality of life of several people exposed to dangerously loud soundscapes.
As a child, while my dad showed me Apocalypse Now or Save the soldier Ryan on Saturday nights, I was convinced that those repeated Dolby surround-enhanced explosions could make me totally deaf as well as for thousands and thousands of war movies fans. I love music, I love to play it loudly, but now I’ve become an esthete of the audio system that, as taught by my audiophile friends, is the only one that sounds good. My ears are safe. But what about the aural condition of many people involved in real dangerously noisy situations, such as war veterans?
The noise-induced hearing loss is a major problem among the armed forces: fire, explosives and aircrafts flying at low altitudes are the main responsible for stressing the hearing of the military personnel. Currently more than 800,000 US veterans receive financial compensation for the hearing-related conditions, costing the US government more than $ 1 billion annually. In Australia, it is estimated that more than 80,000 veterans of World War II have hearing problems burdening the public spending.
For this reason, according to a recent Wall Street Journal’s report, the military base of South Carolina is testing a new drug to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Specifically, the audiologist and researcher Kathleen Campbell is working with the US army to find out if a daily pill could protect soldiers from hearing loss. Until now the medicine has been tested for a period of 11 days on trained soldiers who are shooting with an M16 gun on average at least 500 times. The interesting fact is that each shot is at least 156 dB, and if we consider that after 85 dB there is a risk of hearing loss, then the risk of hearing-loss due to a shotgun explosion is rising dramatically.
The main idea of is to have a drink containing D-Methionine or a placebo shortly before the start of the session of training, at least twice a day, before and after working on the shooting range. After a few weeks Dr. Campell measured the patients’ outcomes. The D-Methionine is an amino acid typically found in meat, fish and dairy products. The results aren’t yet available, but Dr. Campell assures on very promising results during the animal testing phase. A previous study with rats (which have an auditory system similar to humans’ one) reports that the D-Methionine decreases with success the hearing loss on all the examined subjects.
Now, if we consider that the D-methionine could have a mitigating effect on humans too, of course it would all taste like revolution. People who work exposed to intense noise such as miners, factory workers, musicians, pilots, would have another solution to improve their quality of life. Indeed also ordinary people who are in the hearing-loss phase could draw a development or something, but more likely this is the first step to free us of the antiquated hearing aids.
The debate is open: an healthy but invasive plastic instrument or a chemical substance for oral consumption? What are we going to prefer?
[Featured photo by Flick user]