My hearing is shot. And I’m hoping that chickens will help me.
Millions of people suffer hearing loss when the hair cells in their cochlea die. Chickens—those lucky devils—don’t have this problem
Too bad the old saying, “You are what you eat,” isn’t really true. If it was, given my frequent craving for roast chicken, I’d probably have better hearing. Why? Because humans can’t do something that chickens manage routinely: regenerate essential inner-ear cells to reverse hearing loss.
My hearing has been deteriorating for many years now. In my left ear I only hear faint, distorted noises; my right ear is better, but a long way from good. My wife demonstrated major-league patience by enduring my replying “What?” for too long, until I finally got hearing aids. She deserved better.
I used to take my hearing loss for granted, as an unfortunate fact of my existence. No longer, because in recent weeks I’ve been digging a bit into the possibility that science—possibly the research under way at a Stanford University lab—will someday let me hear sounds as they truly are.
Regrettably, there’s no War on Hearing Loss—no massive federal or international push to cure it. There should be.
Yes, there are far worse medical problems, things that kill people or totally ruin their lives. But the hearing-loss numbers blew my mind: an estimated 360 million people worldwide, and more than 30 million of them in the United States, including huge numbers of baby boomers and a significant percentage of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
So on behalf of the millions of folks in this situation, allow me to suggest that it needs more attention! (The italics indicate that I am shouting this loud enough for everyone to, uh, hear it.) Let’s encourage some good old-fashioned greed, especially now that scientists are making progress in figuring out the mechanics of hearing loss, and a handful of startups are investigating new drugs and rethinking the way users control their hearing aids.
I don’t expect government—especially when the Republicans who control Congress seem to think that science is irrelevant—to get off the dime anytime soon. So I ask philanthropic funders of research to kindly take another look. And to capitalists and especially entrepreneurs, I’ll just say: Hey, folks, there’s nowhere near enough going on in this field. You want to disrupt something? How about hearing loss?
Some people are born with it. I probably did it to myself. I played music for a living when I was in my 20s, living in Vermont and touring with a band, mostly around New England. We had amplifiers pumping out sound from behind us. In those days musicians didn’t know enough to do what’s more routine now: wear in-ear filters to dampen the frequencies and levels that cause the most damage.
The ranks of aging, semi-deaf players — and far more numerous listeners to loud music — have swelled.
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