Hearing loss cure discovered, and it works

Today, I’m sharing the incredible story of Opal Sandy, an 18-month-old in the UK who recently received gene therapy just before her first birthday. Now, six months on, she can hear without hearing aids.

This could be a beacon of hope for the 1.5 billion people across the world who are affected by hearing loss. So, let’s see what this means for you and your hearing.

child getting tested for hearing loss

Developments in hearing loss research

Perhaps you suffer from hearing loss yourself, or maybe you know somebody who’s recently been diagnosed with hearing loss. No matter how you’ve ended up here, there’s definitely no denying that hearing loss is a widespread issue affecting one in five people globally and for every 500 babies born, one of them will have some form of hearing loss.

Despite this, historically both research and funding for a cure have been pretty scarce. But, in recent years, there has definitely been a surge in attention and clinical trials, signalling a promising shift towards finding a solution. This is where the CHORD clinical trial comes in.

What is the CHORD clinical trial?

A team from the University of Cambridge and University College of London have completed the world’s first gene therapy trial aimed at restoring hearing. This treatment, named DB-OTO, developed by biotech leader Regeneron, was administered to 12-month-old Opal Sandy, offering a new horizon for those with a genetic form of hearing loss.

Opal and her older sister both share a mutation in the OTOF gene, which is thought to affect up to 20,000 people in the US and the EU5. This gene is crucial for the production of a protein called otoferlin, which is responsible for transmitting auditory signals from the ear to the brain. Without it, individuals may pass hearing tests but still experience something called auditory neuropathy, which is a condition that disrupts these signals.

gene therapy cure for hearing loss

Now, this CHORD trial involves a three-part process with children receiving varying doses of gene therapy. Opal underwent a 16-minute procedure under general anaesthetic where a modified harmless virus was infused within her cochlea, delivering a functional OTOF gene to the cells within her inner ear, replacing the faulty DNA and effectively enabling communication along her auditory pathway between the ear and the brain.

The awesome news is that early results from this trial are already exceeding expectations, with Opal’s hearing having significantly improved. This groundbreaking research paves the way for a new era of treating deafness. Opal is one of 18 children undergoing the trial, with more deaf children being recruited over a five-year period to measure the success of this treatment.

Professor Bance, an ear surgeon at the Trust and chief investigator for the trial, said that the initial results were better than he’d hoped and expected and that this has the potential to cure patients with this type of deafness. He also reported that this trial is just the beginning of gene therapies and marks a new era in the treatment of deafness.

The future of gene therapies in treating hearing loss

In my opinion, whilst it’s too early to say for certain, the hope is that gene therapies in the future could eventually replace hearing aids and other technologies, which will potentially be game changers in treating hearing loss.

At the moment, this cure is only possible for this very specific niche and particular type of hearing loss. Of course, when I start to think about the other advances that this may result in, I get incredibly excited about the thoughts of continued exploration in this field, and my hope is that this will expand to find a tinnitus cure too. For the moment, sadly, it’s still being trialled, but of course, I will be the first to let you know as soon as there are any further developments in this field.

Hearing loss cure that ACTUALLY works discovered…

Matthew Allsop is a Partner at Harley Street Hearing and the content creator for Hearing Tracker, where he shares his honest opinions on all things to do with hearing health and hearing aid technology. Hearing Tracker is the world’s first truly independent resource for hearing aid customers. You can watch his video on gene therapy for curing hearing loss below.

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