Scientists boost fight against hearing loss

RESEARCHERS have made a discovery which could help to develop new treatments to help those who are going progressively deaf.

University of Sheffield experts have found the underlying cause of deafness is a change in a molecular mechanism, caused by a mutation, which opens up the possibility of finding ways to tackle the problem.

The research team, working with experts elsewhere, discovered the mutation prevents the development of auditory sensor hair cells.

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Those cells are located in the inner ear and are essential for encoding sound as electrical signals that are then sent to the brain.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal and was based on studies of mice, which do not normally hear until about 12 days after birth.

The researchers found the mutation hinders the development not only of the hair bundle on the cell apex but also the synaptic structures at the base that govern transfer of electrical information to the sensory nerves.

Sheffield University researcher Dr Walter Marcotti said: "Progressive hearing loss affects a large proportion of the human population, including new born and young children.

"Despite the relevance of this problem, very little is currently known regarding