Is Hearing Loss Permanent ?
What is set out below supported by four separate scientific studies is quite complicated but can be summarised as follows :
Hearing loss is caused by damage to inner ear hair cells.
This damage is thought to be caused by inflammation set off by the inner ears own immune response to what it perceives to be a pathogenic attack. This is via activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome.
If this inflammation is reduced quickly enough it would seem that damage to the inner ear hair cells could be limited and hearing could return. However should the inflammation carry on longer term then permanent damage to the hair cells and hence permanent hearing loss will likely result.
Getting the inflammation down quickly is therefore essential to preserve hearing.
One method suggested is the use of Dexamethasone which can be injected as a steroid by an ENT Consultant.
Another method suggested is the use of Quercetin in deactivating the NLRP3 inflammasome.
There are also various other methods available outlined in our treatment pages as to ways of reducing inflammation and getting your symptoms under control.
The good news in this area is that there is lots of research currently going on worldwide in a bid to prompt the inner ear to regrow it’s hair cells.
For example this trial of a drug injected into the ear is in progress called the Regain project and has a €5.8 million grant from the EU to support it.
For the technical detail to support the above summary, please read below :
The problem with hearing loss is that it is an issue within the inner ear and the inner ear is so tiny and buried so far into the skull that it is almost impossible to investigate and repair any issues it has.
The most effective way of studying damage to the inner ear is by autopsy as the study linked here has done.
Researchers examined 120 inner ears collected at autopsy from people who had hearing loss at death.
The conclusion was that extent and positioning of hair cell death within the inner ear predicted the severity and pattern of the hearing loss.
Whilst the study above suggests exposure to loud environmental sounds is a factor in damaging hair cells the question remains for Menieres patients as to what destroys our hair cells ?
A further study here suggests that inflammation is the cause of hearing loss and hence damage to hair cells in the inner ear.
This paper proposes that the inner ear has it’s own immune response and can generate inflammation by activating NLRP3 inflammasome when activated by either viral, bacteria, toxin attack or various other potential inflammatory drivers.
In simple terms the paper suggests that the inner ear has the capability of mounting an inflammatory immune response when it feels under attack from a pathogen by inflating the NLRP3 inflammasome. This in turn damages the inner ear hair cells and causes hearing loss.
There is a further paper which shows various ways to mediate and regulate the inflammation in the NLRP3 inflammasome using natural non pharmaceutical solutions. One of the suggested supplements which was shown to have a regulatory effect on NLRP3 inflammation is Quercetin which is one of our recommended supplements anyway for Menieres as an anti viral and also as an ionophore for zinc as a virus killer.
A further study also looked at ways of using Glucocorticoids including Dexamethasone which ENT Consultants use in Steroid injections to reduce inflammation in the inner ear.
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