Unfortunately for us humans, we cannot regenerate sensory hair cells in their inner ears following physical trauma or loud noise, unlike some other animals. That being said, researchers are close to discovering a way to reverse hearing loss, which is great news for those of us who dwell in the dark rooms that constitute nightlife culture.
Back in 2013 a man named Dr. Albert Edge, working with Dutch company Audion Therapeutics, discovered that a "notch inhibitor" could regenerate hair cells, which could in turn treat deafness. The study was originally to report on the side effects for people with dementia, but he soon realized other applications. “We thought, ‘These side effects in an Alzheimer’s patient are exactly what we’re looking for in treating deafness’,” remarked Dr. Edge. “So we decided to try that idea out in these mice.”
Now Audion Therapeutics is planning it's first human clinical trials, with support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund. “Primarily we aim to show that it is safe and well tolerated. And also we will look for an efficacy signal,” said the CEO of Audion, Rolf Jan Rutten.
At the same time in the United States, a company called Frequency Therapeutics is "developing ways to induce supporting cells to multiply, then become hair cells, using a notch inhibitor," according to The Atlantic.
Although this is all very exciting news, hair cell regeneration is still in it's very early stages, and there currently is no development trajectory for the research. This means it could be years, or decades, until we know of a cure for hearing-loss, but beginning human clinical trials, and the fact that two companies are working to develop a cure, is indeed very promising.
“It is a competitive field, but everybody has their own approach,” said Ruttan. “Obviously there will be one of us that will be successful first, but it may be that our different approaches are complementary.”