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Audio therapy may avert chemo-induced hearing loss

Mice exposed to loud sound before getting chemotherapy preserve valuable cells in the inner ear

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Conditioning mice with loud but not deafening sound prevents the animals from suffering hearing loss due to chemotherapy, researchers report October 15 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The platinum-based chemo drug cisplatin and certain antibiotics including kanamycin can destroy so-called hair cells in the cochlea, the auditory part of the inner ear. Once destroyed, these sensory cells don’t grow back on their own.

Lisa Cunningham of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Rockville, Md., and her colleagues reported in August that compounds called heat-shock proteins can fend off drug-induced hearing damage in mice. That report unveiled evidence that support cells in the cochlea secrete a heat-shock protein called Hsp70 that protects hair cells.

In the new study, the researchers exposed mice to sound that stresses but doesn’t permanently damage the cochlea and found evidence of extra Hsp70 production. Mice then received cisplatin or kanamycin. Compared with mice that didn’t get the sound treatment, the treated mice lost less hearing and more of their hair cells survived. “These data suggest that sound preconditioning holds potential to protect the hearing of patients receiving these drugs,” the authors conclude.

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