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Stanford University: Hearing loss from loud blasts may be treatable, researchers say

John Oghalai

John Oghalai

Long-term hearing loss from loud explosions, such as blasts from roadside bombs, may not be as irreversible as previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Using a mouse model, the study found that loud blasts actually cause hair-cell and nerve-cell damage, rather than structural damage, to the cochlea, which is the auditory portion of the inner ear. This could be good news for the millions of soldiers and civilians who, after surviving these often devastating bombs, suffer long-term hearing damage.

“It means we could potentially try to reduce this damage,” said John Oghalai, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and senior author of the study, published July 1 in PLOS ONE. If the cochlea, an extremely delicate structure, had been shredded and ripped apart by a large blast, as earlier studies have asserted, the damage would be irreversible. (Researchers presume that the damage seen in these previous studies may have been due to the use of older, less sophisticated imaging techniques.)

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