The NIHR Horizon Scanning Research and Intelligence Centre has published a horizon scanning review of new and emerging technologies that are being developed for the management and reduction of the negative consequences of hearing loss.
More than 11 million, (approximately one in six) people in the UK are affected by hearing loss, the majority (92%) experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss. The likelihood of hearing loss increases with age, with more than 70% of 70 year-olds experiencing some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss is however, not uncommon in children; there are over 45,000 children in the UK who have a profound hearing loss.
We identified 55 technologies that fitted the identification criteria: five educational programmes, six auditory and cognitive training programmes, five assistive listening devices, eleven hearing aids (HAs) and alternative listening devices, eight implants and devices, twelve drugs, one regenerative medicine approach, and seven surgical procedures. Most of the developments were in early or uncertain clinical research and would require additional evaluation before widespread adoption by patients and the NHS.
Experts and patients picked out technologies of interest including: apps for converting speech to text and sign language to speech, hearing aids and alternative listening devices to support listening in different environments, a fully implantable cochlear implant (CI) system, a closed-loop CI system, and three developments to support the tuning and optimisation of HAs. If these were successful they have the potential to change the CI landscape for patients, improve patient experience and use of HAs, and to affect service delivery and provision.
Pioglitazone given both as an injection (directly into the inner ear) and oral tablets is being investigated as a treatment option for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) in adults. SSNHL, also known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained loss of hearing, typically in one ear and can happen instantly or over a span of several days. During this time, sound gradually becomes muffled or faint. SSNHL happens when organs in the inner ear or the nerve pathways between the ear and the brain become damaged. Whilst no medicines are authorised to treat the hearing loss itself, steroids are used to treat the symptoms or antibiotics if the cause is infection. Cochlear implants can be used but this does not completely restore hearing but amplifies sounds to a more normal level.