Vitamins, minerals may prevent noise-induced hearing loss
About 10 million people in the United States alone from troops returning from war to students with music blasting through headphones are suffering from impairing noise-induced hearing loss.
The rising trend is something that researchers and physicians at the Kresge Hearing Research Institute are hoping to reverse, with a cocktail of vitamins and the mineral magnesium that has shown promise as a possible way to prevent hearing loss caused by loud noises. The nutrients were successful in laboratory tests, and now researchers are testing whether humans will benefit as well.
"The prevention of noise induced hearing loss is key," says Dr. Glenn Green, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Health System and director of the Children's Hearing Laboratory.
"When we can't prevent noise-induced hearing loss through screening programs and use of hearing protection, then we really need to come up with some way of protecting people who are still going to have noise exposure. My hope is that this medication will give people a richer, fuller life."
The combination of vitamins A, C and E, plus magnesium, is given in pill form to patients who are participating in the research. Developed at the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, the medication, called AuraQuell, is designed to be taken before a person is exposed to loud noises. In earlier testing at U-M on guinea pigs, the combination of the four micronutrients blocked about 80 percent of the noise-induced hearing impairment.
AuraQuell is being tested in a set of four multinational human clinical trials: military trials in Sweden and Spain, an industrial trial in Spain, and a trial involving students at the University of Florida who listen to music at high volumes on their iPods and other PDAs, all funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is the first NIH-funded clinical trial involving the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.
"If we can even see 50 percent of the effectiveness in humans that we saw in our animal trials, we will have an effective treatment that will very significantly reduce noise-induced hearing impairment in humans. That would be a remarkable dream," says co-lead researcher Josef Miller, the Lynn and Ruth Townsend Professor of Communication Disorders and director of the Center for Hearing Disorders at the Department of Otolaryngology's Kresge Hearing Research Institute.
Miller notes that the military tests in the new study could be of particular importance because of the high number of soldiers who develop hearing loss in the line of duty, due to improvised explosive devices and other noises.
Last year, he says, the Department of Defense spent approximately $1.5 billion in compensation for hearing impairment, and Veterans Affairs hospitals spent close to $1 billion for clinical care and treatment of hearing impairment. The most recent figures in a report by the Institute of Medicine indicated that one-third of returning soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be redeployed specifically because of hearing impairment.
"Not only is it an enormous factor in quality of life for the individual affected, in cost to society for health care and compensation," Miller says, "but it fundamentally compromises the effectiveness of our military at this time."