Millions of people around the world are affected by hearing loss. While therapy and support are critical in helping both hearing-impaired adults and children live rich, full lives, there is no cure for hearing loss. However, new research on chickens holds much promise.
Chickens have the ability to restore their own hearing. The supporting cells in their inner ear are able to replace damaged hair cells. Chickens actually share this ability with most other non-mammalian vertebrates. Recent research into this ability has inspired the Hearing Health Foundation to push for a cure to human hearing loss within a decade!
The Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), a collaboration supported by the Hearing Health Foundation, has begun its work on this cure. Scientists plan to identify how chicken supporting cells transform into hair cells, then work to find drugs that will initiate the process in humans. Researchers are optimistic they can hit the ten-year goal, but the work is challenging. It requires intense creative focus, diligence, and a sense of community.
Ed Rubel, a researcher at the University of Washington and a member of the HRP, shares his vision of the project, proclaiming, “The wonderful thing about the consortium is that it includes only people who really want to play in that kind of sandbox—that want to share information, share early-stage information, share the other things that they’re doing in their laboratories, and work together.”
Ten years is a long time for sufferers who want to regain their hearing more quickly. However, the incredible traits of the chicken offers a unique opportunity to discover and enact a cure for hearing loss.