There is no cure for hearing loss. At least not yet. But companies around the globe are racing to find one. With hundreds of millions of people in the world diagnosed with hearing loss, it’s no surprise that each new research finding and potential solution makes headlines and offers promise.
While we often focus on the drug that will be the magic bullet for curing hearing loss, it’s really much more complicated. Not only are researchers finding that the type of hearing loss plays a huge role, so does how a drug is delivered to the ear.
The ear is a compact and complicated package. It is only recently, as the number of people diagnosed with hearing loss grows, that science has begun to dig deeper to explore the ear. Not only how it operates but how experts can use that information to develop targeted and safe treatments.
And many companies are now jumping into the fray to deliver the solutions that millions are seeking them – specifically those solutions targeting the inner ear.
According to recent information, ver 40 companies developing “drug-, cell- and gene-based approaches to prevent hearing loss or its progression, restore hearing, and regenerate the inner ear.”
Many of these groups expect to be able to deliver these within the next five years.
It’s not just the drug
While developing pharmaceuticals to prevent and even potentially cure hearing loss is a crucial step, so is how those pharmaceuticals are delivered to where they’re needed most. The inner ear.
There are currently three options to get the drugs to the inner ear;
- Intratympanic delivery – This is a syringe injection through the tympanic membrane of the ear to the middle ear, where it can then be absorbed into the cochlea.
- Intracochlear delivery – In this method, the drug is administered into the cochlea. This is viewed as a higher risk choice but also more targeted via injection, and implant device or similar.
- Systemic delivery – Currently, the least preferable option, as the blood-labyrinth barrier can be an issue, researchers are now focused on this lowest risk and most comfortable option for future delivery systems. It is here where experts seek to better understand the inner workings of the ear to develop the most effective delivery system.
“Systemic delivery of therapeutics that target the inner ear is a preferred goal for ease of clinical administration,” said Peter Steyger, PhD, director of Creighton University’s Translational Hearing Center. “Understanding which systemically administered therapeutics readily enter the inner ear to exert beneficial effects is grossly under-researched at present.”
Experts and those with hearing loss alike are excited about the possibilities of inner ear drug delivery and what it could mean in the very near future for hearing health. Whether it’s a state-of-the-art gel that can be retained in the ear for longer for maximum benefit, new implantable devices, improved gene and stem-cell therapies, or the next newest development the research into both solutions and how to deliver them to the inner ear safely and effectively offer hope to millions.