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YOUR HEALTH: New breakthroughs to reduce hearing loss

Doctors may have found a medication that helps people recover some of their lost hearing

ORLANDO, Fla — Millions of people suffer from age-related hearing loss. 

It's just a fact of life for most. 

While there are options for those who are struggling to hear, a new medicine to treat hearing loss may be on the way.

"I always did get up in the morning, take a shower, do my hair, and laugh at myself but I'm having fun doing it," said 92 year old Lois Kander.

But it hasn't been fun not being able to share in conversations like she used to.

Like millions, Lois is experiencing age-related hearing loss.

"People are telling you things and they think you're listening and in a way you are listening but you can't hear everything that they`re saying and you get disgusted."

Approximately one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.  Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally.

"You can buy pills that reduce pain, help stomach and help you sleep but there are no drugs or medications to improve hearing," explained Robert Fristiona, director of the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research at the University of South Florida

But that could soon change. 

Frisina found that combining the hormone aldosterone with anti-inflammatory medication can slow hearing loss.

"In a sense, we're making the ear younger because we're giving this critical hormone," he said.

Lois knows it could help a lot of people.

"I could go give you a list of all the people that I know that I have to pat 'em on their shoulder when I'm calling out their name because they didn't hear."

"It could be for everyone because we're all going to lose our hearing as we get older," said Fristina.

And other technological advances are in the works.

From digital bluetooth-connected hearing aids that work with devices like televisions and other sound systems to stream audio to designs that fit invisibly in the ear canal, each can be programmed to the individual frequency needs of the listener.

"Wearing something on your ear will be a badge of technological prowess rather than a marker of age and infirmity," explained Dr. Robert Jackler, professor in Otorhinolaryngology and of neurosurgery at Stanford University.

Another intervention that Jackler hopes will become a reality soon is a biological cure for hearing loss

Through the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss, more than a hundred scientists and technicians are working to cure inner-ear hearing loss, the type that results from hair cell degeneration, which remains incurable today.  

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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