Blog: 'Can that rodent hear us?'

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

AS a hearing aid wearer, I’m pleased to learn that a drug has been developed that could successfully reverse deafness.

According to experts at the Harvard Medical School, the treatment has proved successful when used on deaf mice, although I don’t know how you can tell when a rodent has truly lost its hearing.

Perhaps the scientists play a recording of a cat meeowing or a mouse trap being tensioned and if the creature doesn’t bat an eye or twitch a whisker they presume it is deaf.

Anyway, the main thing is the researchers have now made a drug that regenerates tiny hairs in the ears of mice, allowing them to hear again.

Apparently, hair cells are the primary receptor cells for sound but they can be lost through exposure to loud noise, ageing, toxins and infections.

Because auditory hair cells in mammals cannot be regrown once lost, the only way deafness can be countered is by hearing aids which effectively amplify sounds as they enter the ear.

At this point it’s worth mentioning an intriguing fact, which is that, unlike mammals, birds and fish can actually regrow their auditory cells.

Being neither bird nor fish (except in the latter’s case as a result of a Piscean star sign), my own hearing loss remains unrepaired.

That’s why I’d be happy to offer myself as a guinea pig for auditory hair regeneration.

However, being deaf - or appearing so - can have its compensations.

Take that elderly man who ended up hearing better than ever after a doctor fitted him with new state-of-the-art aids.

After a month, the pensioner went back to the surgery to get his hearing levels checked out and the doctor said: "Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased."

The man smiled and told the doctor: "Oh, I haven't told them yet.

“I just sit around and listen to their conversations.

“I've changed my will three times."

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