Spotlight on hearing therapeutics landscape: a clinical perspective

This year RNID have been chosen as the BIA’s charity partner of the year. This partnership gives us a unique platform to shine the light on the huge opportunities that exist for hearing therapeutics, both to improve quality of life and to generate commercial returns. By the end of the year, we hope to have raised awareness amongst the sector and have encouraged investors and industry to get more involved in hearing research. As part of this, we will be publishing a series of blogs focussing on hearing therapeutics from different sector perspectives.

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In the first blog, Professor Gerard O’Donoghue, Consultant Neurotologist at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, shares his perspective on why the development of new treatments and their subsequent clinical adoption are vital for people living with hearing loss.

The field of deafness is being transformed by a resurgence of interest in inner ear therapeutics. Despite the massive and growing contribution deafness makes to the global burden of disease, no medical treatments exist to treat its root causes, especially in relation to sensorineural deafness. At present, patients are typically managed by prosthetic devices (hearing aids or cochlear implants) which although helpful in many instances, do not meet the needs of countless deaf patients. For instance, these devices do not address the primary causes of permanent hearing loss and do not restore the neural or sensory substrates necessary for the organ of hearing to function properly. While these devices can improve the audibility of many sounds, their performance rapidly degrades in the presence of noise. Thus, the poor understanding of speech they deliver in multi-talker social settings can be a major source of frustration to hearing-impaired individuals. In addition, these devices are often perceived as stigmatizing, and this in itself is a major barrier to uptake even in countries where these devices are available without direct charge to recipients.

Not surprisingly, individuals with hearing loss are desperately keen to see the emergence of novel therapeutic approaches to address their deafness. In particular, the recent dramatic success of treating profound deafness due to auditory neuropathy by gene therapy has shown the potential of the inner ear to respond to targeted medical treatment. Our own group is exploring the use of stem cells to replace the lost nerve cells in the inner ear as a therapeutic approach to hearing loss – and other groups are employing different biological approaches to meet this huge unmet need. I am thus hopeful that from this plurality of biological approaches will emerge novel treatments for sensorineural hearing loss that will be tailored to its underlying causes and will give hope to the millions of deaf individuals globally whose needs are not met by current management options. Investment in hearing research is desperately needed to meet this aspiration.

Want to find out more?

If you enjoyed this blog and want to find out more about hearing loss therapeutics, join RNID Hearing Therapeutics Initiative.

RNID supports innovators working in the hearing loss field to develop new therapeutics through our Hearing Therapeutics Initiative. The network connects experts from across the world who are developing new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. If you’re an innovator working on hearing loss or tinnitus, are new to the field, or want to find out more about the landscape the HTI can link you to the resources and expertise you need to develop your ideas and help advance new treatments.

You can also join us for a BIA-RNID webinar on 12 June where we will lead a panel discussion focusing on 'Preparing for clinical trials in a novel therapeutic area'.

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