Researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, may be well on the way to finding new therapies that restore noise-induced and age-related hearing loss in humans. In a new study, the team describes how they recovered hearing in mice partially deafened by noise.

Ribbon synapses in mice
The researchers found that a protein called NT3 is important for establishing ribbon synapses (red) - connections between the inner ear's hair cells (blue) and nerve cells (green).
Image credit: Corfas laboratory - University of Michigan

The researchers, led by Gabriel Corfas, PhD, of the University of Michigan, publish their findings online in the journal eLife.
Approximately 50 million Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear, with around 26 million Americans aged 20-69 experiencing high-frequency hearing loss as a result of noise exposure. Hearing loss is also common as we age, affecting around 30% of adults aged 65-74 and 47% of adults aged 75 and over.
In their study, the researchers explain how they were able to increase production of a protein called Neurotrophin-3 (NT3) in mice, which they found plays a key role in communication between the ears and the brain.
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