GAINESVILLE, Fla. Vitamin supplements can prevent hearing loss in laboratory animals, according to two new studies, bringing investigators one step closer to the development of a pill that could stave off noise-induced and perhaps even age-related hearing loss in humans.
The findings will be reported Wednesday at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology's annual conference in Baltimore by senior author Colleen Le Prell, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Florida.
The supplements used in the research studies are composed of antioxidants beta carotene and vitamins C and E and the mineral magnesium. When administered prior to exposure to loud noise, the supplements prevented both temporary and permanent hearing loss in test animals.
"What is appealing about this vitamin 'cocktail' is that previous studies in humans, including those demonstrating successful use of these supplements in protecting eye health, have shown that supplements of these particular vitamins are safe for long-term use," said Le Prell, an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions' department of communicative disorders.
About 26 million Americans have noise-induced hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the agency that funded the studies.
In the first study, UF, University of Michigan and OtoMedicine scientists gave guinea pigs the vitamin supplements prior to a four-hour exposure to noise at 110 decibels, similar to levels reached at a loud concert. Researchers assessed the animals' hearing by measuring sound-evoked neural activity and found that the treatment successfully prevented temporary hearing loss in the animals.
In humans, temporary noise-induced hearing loss, often accompanied by ringing in the ears, typically goes away after a few hours or days as the cells in the inner ear heal. Because repeated temporary hearing loss can
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