A new drug approved by the FDA to fight COVID-19 has shown in preliminary studies, the ability to address age-related hearing loss. The ability to overcome hearing difficulties caused by tinnitus and Meniere’s disease, a neurological condition linked with hearing loss and dizziness, will be welcome news to millions.
Known as SPI-1005, the pill serves to boost the levels of compounds within the ear that protect delicate hair cells. These cells convert sound vibrations into electrical nerve signals that are relayed to the brain. Each ear holds around 15,000 of these cells, but the number declines over time as a result of age, disease, and consistent noise exposure.
Hearing loss is caused once the cells in a specific region of the ear are lost, resulting in the inability to hear high-frequency sounds like speech.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, one in three adults over 65 have hearing loss. Many people do not realize until the loss has become clearly noticeable. A drug like SPI-1005 shines a light on a possible treatment for something that plagues millions.
A University of Florida study found that SPI-1005 increases the levels of an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme protects the inner ear from damage caused by loud noises and shows promising signs as a preventative treatment for further hearing loss.
Another study conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina in 2019 showed that the drug can be used as a treatment for hearing loss. After testing 140 patients with Meniere’s disease, six out of ten experience noticeable improvement in hearing and reduced reaction to the loudness of tinnitus.
The pill has also drawn interest from the FDA for COVID-19 treatment with the idea that the drug can block the enzyme responsible for replication of the coronavirus.
As more trials are conducted to test the drug’s efficacy in hearing loss treatment, ear, nose, and throat specialists are looking forward to the results.
Professor Jaydip Ray, an ENT consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospital in England, said, “Novel therapeutics like this which are aimed at modifying inner-ear biology to delay or reverse such neurodegenerative changes are the next big growth area in research that is showing huge promise.”