This New Drug May Prevent Hearing Loss

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These days there seems to be a pill for just about everything, but could the next one on the horizon really help prevent hearing loss? A new study may prove that the answer to that question is, “yes.”

Oricula Therapeutics of Seattle, whose scientists work at the University of Washington and Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, believes that ORC-13661 could be the answer to at least one kind of hearing loss. After promising results in animal studies conducted on rats, the team has now received FDA approval to begin volunteer human trials on the investigational drug.

ORC-13661 was created specifically to protect against hearing damage caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics, one of the many types of ototoxic drugs on the market. This promising new drug was designed to protect the hair cells of the inner ear, so crucial in hearing ability, and is the result of many years studying both compounds that can damage hearing and those that may help protect it.

Protecting The Inner Ear

These sensory hair cells are part of the inner ear or cochlea. As sound waves travel through the liquid of the inner ear, these sensory hair cells detect the sounds and their varying pitches helping to create the electrical impulse that we translate into sound. Hearing loss can often be traced back to damage to these cells.

If ORC-13661 can truly protect these cells and their ability to help patients receiving life-saving treatment from aminoglycoside antibiotics, as the human trials hope to prove, it could open the door to further research and solutions for preventing hearing loss from ototoxic drugs.

“Patients with cystic fibrosis, immune suppression, endocarditis, non-TB Mycobacteria, multiple drug-resistant TB as well as premature newborn infants are all candidates for aminoglycoside treatment and could benefit. By reducing or eliminating the debilitating side effect of permanent hearing loss, Oricula sees expanded worldwide use of these inexpensive, highly effective antibiotics for treating life‐threatening bacterial infections.”  -Malcolm Gleser, MD, Ph.D., Oricula Therapeutics CEO

The research, funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, is promising.

Ototoxic Drugs And Hearing Loss

With recent hearing loss research implicating many common drugs as ototoxic medications, those that “cause functional impairment and cellular degeneration of the tissues of the inner ear,” the race is on to find a solution. Common ototoxic medications include:

  • Over-the-counter pain and inflammation reducers (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Tylenol)
  • Certain antibiotics (aminoglycoside antibiotics such as streptomycin)
  • Chemotherapy drugs (Cisplatin, Carboplatin, etc.)
  • Loop diuretics (Lasix, ethacrynic acid)

ORC-13661 may be the first of many medications offering hearing protection to those in need of vital treatments that may also harm hearing.

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting research and how Oricula Therapeutics is uncovering compounds that hurt hearing as well as those that can protect it, like ORC-13661, you can find more information on the research here.

If you have questions about common drugs that may damage hearing or believe you have been affected by hearing loss, call our office to learn more. The best way to protect your hearing is to get regular hearing evaluations and work closely with your hearing healthcare provider.

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