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New Treatment for Inner Ear Conditions

The inner ear is the part of the hearing and balance mechanism that transforms pressure waves in air into electrical energy to the brain, allowing us to have both hearing and balance. These pressure waves vary from very slow movements (less than one cycle per second) to very fast movements (ranging from a hundred to more than 10 thousand cycles per second). There are two tiny organs within the inner ear that are responsible for this amazing ability: the semicircular canals for balance and the cochlea and vestibute for hearing.

Over the last several years scientific studies have begun to make inroads into understanding the inner workings of these tiny organs. Because of their small size, surgical procedures are not available. But drug studies are currently underway to develop gene therapy treatments that have potential to regenerate lost inner ear hair cells by inserting virus carrying genes programmed to become functioning inner hair cells.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is another thorny issue. It is a constant sound that is usually the result of excessive exposure to noise. New medical trials are coming available using an anesthetic derivative with the potential to calm down the overactive hair cells of inner ear tinnitus sufferers. And since the inner ear is also responsive to fluid movements, balance problems may also improve tinnitus as well.

Modern medicine is providing the tools for further improvident of these critical organs. Over the next few years treatments for tinnitus and balance should become available to restore hearing and balance to millions of affected patients.

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