U.S. Army Funds Testing of Drug to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received $10.5 million from the Department of the Army to investigate whether an anti-seizure drug can prevent noise-induced hearing loss.  Hearing loss along with tinnitus is the most common disorder experienced by military service members.
Researchers will evaluate an anti-seizure drug zonisamide, which has been shown to protect hearing in animals when given in advance of exposure to loud noise.  The drug blocks chemical signals that nerve cells use to communicate ant has a long history of save use and few side effects.
The studies will examine the drug’s effectiveness in two scenarios.  In the first, patient exposed to the sound of a drill during skull surgery will take zonisamide at one of the two different doses or a placebo about 4 hours before their procedure. Although patients may not be conscious of the loud drilling noise when under anesthesia, exposure can cause hearing loss in the following days.
In the scenario, collaborators at the University of Akron will use the same protocol–no drug or one of two doses of the drug with police officers exposed to gunfire noise on a shooting range.  Other collaborating sites include the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Akron and Gateway Biotechnology in St. Louis.
Researchers will also perform a genetic analysis to see if mall variations in certain genes have an impact on the drug’s effectiveness.  No drugs are currently available for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.
News in Brief from The ASHA Leader, May 2019

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