Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stem cells as a treatment for deafness. Try best HAs before CI.


Ive been reading many such articles. Here's the most recent one to date. Ive read that there could be over a dozen ways to treat or even cure deafness. Stem cells is probably the best way but it could be as simple as finding a certain protein that will force hair cells to divide/reproduce. Ive also read an article talking about a special laser that when aimed will either repair hair cells or cause them to divide! There even could be a way to take existing hair cells and recruit them to do several jobs at once!

Stem cells can come from several sources. One article talks about taking stem cells from your own skin, using them as master cells to grow hair cells then injecting them into your ears where they attach and your hearing is improved! Another article has found that every ear contains stem cells. They can remove a sample, convert them to hair cells then reinsert them. Other articles say your brain contains stem cells but I probably will not be willing to let them touch my brain, too risky.

As for finding proteins, the article discusses that a deficient in certain proteins are the cause for damaged hair cells. It is possible that if the deficient is remedied, the hair cells could be repaired! It could be as simple as ear drops and the proteins are absorbed into your eardrums and cause some of your hair cells to repair. That would be a very safe, simple, cheap way to improve your hearing! Id do it for any improvement!

There are lasers that reshape the cornea and improve your vision and reduce your dependacy on glasses. The article talks about laser ear surgery, a cousin of laser eye surgery! I personally have no interest in laser eye surgery since glasses do the job fine for me and I am not willing to take the risks. It does not give better vision than what glasses gives. But with laser ear surgery, it should help the deaf hear better with and without hearing aids. I hear pretty good with hearing aids but I could definately achieve a big improvement. If I was only hard of hearing and not deaf, I wouldn't be as interested since id get full benefits from HAs that most deaf people can't achieve as their hearing loss is too deep.

We all know that recruitment is sometimes a bad thing but im now reading that certain chemicals/hormones/proteins could "reprogram" existing hair cells to recruit in a good way and make you hear better. Have great low frequency hearing but missing the highs? Just recruit some of the low frequency hair cells to respond to high frequencies! Don't hear loud enough with HAs? Recruit more hair cells so you hear louder!

Most of the articles put the timeframe at 10 years out into the future. This means we could be looking at 2020 when we see clinical trials but it could be a few years earlier when the first person gets expermented on with the results made public. Other countries may begin their trials before America as their regulations differ. I will let others go first and see what their results are as well as the risks. When results are good enough and it's safe, I am going ahead myself. I am 27 now and I could be 37-40 when it's done on me. Ill have more than half my life to enjoy better hearing.

----------------On another note--------------------

But I understand not everyone has the luxury of time or are willing to wait at least 10 years. What they can do is try the best HAs and have them programmed for maximum amplification/gains so they hear more/louder/better. I am noticing a growing number of CI candidates who haven't tried the best HAs and also have more residual hearing than me. I thought it was a basic requirement that every CI candidate get a 30 to 90 day trial of the best HAs! I know someone who was understanding 20% speech then he tried newer, better HAs and now understands 80% speech!

This is precisely why my audiologist doesn't recommend I get CIs at this time and instead to work with him in reprogramming my HAs for more amplification/gains so I hear more/louder/better. If you look at my audiogram, I have alot of residual low frequency hearing with only 75db loss at 250Hz. 60% of speech and 75% of sounds take place at 500Hz and lower. Thus im still able to hear most sounds and understand some speech. I am learing all I can so I can understand my own deafness, others and to work with my audie to program my HAs to the best potental.

This is the best I will hear aided with my Phonak Naida V UP HAs. I currently hear about 10db worse than that so I am having the gains increased. No guarantee ill get to 10db at 250Hz or 30db at 1000Hz but my audie is going to try for that. Ill be happy to get close though. I am missing the highs but transposition(if it works) will address this. Even if not, only 10% of the speech banana takes place in the high frequencies.

This is about what ill be hearing sometime in 2020 with about 20db improvement. The red dots are my unaided hearing and the blue dots are my aided hearing. You must remember that HAs will be much more advanced a decade from now and they will be capable of aiding me down to 0db except in the high frequencies. Transposition algorithms will be extremely sophiscated by then and will do a great job of shifting the highs down to the mids. Even without transposition, I will already be able to access over 90% of the speech banana. Besides as stem cell technology improves, I can always repeat the procedure and achieve another 20db improvement!


  1. I just blogged about you and this blog ;-)

  2. The speech banana is a spectrum that's shaped like a banana. The person needs to hear in that range to understand speech. I am missing about a third of the speech banana(mostly the high frequencies and some of the mids)

  3. Very interesting post, deafdude! It's exciting to know what's on the horizon. I especially liked your info on recruitment.

    BTW, I feel the same as you about laser eye surgery. Not for me.

    I'm going to read more of your blog.