The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is an organization that is dedicated to curing hearing loss. They fund research and help with collaboration efforts between scientists. The Hearing Health Foundation actually renamed themselves in about 2010 or 2011 when they were known as the Deafness Research Foundation. The rename was a smart marketing move because usually people associated deafness with extreme hearing loss and so tend to think of only a certain degree of hearing loss. Whereas having it renamed to the Hearing Health Foundation makes someone think about hearing issues in general.
The Hearing Restoration Project
The Hearing Health Foundation began an ambitious project called the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP). As the name of the project implies it’s about finding treatments or cures to help with hearing loss. There are three phases to the Hearing Restoration Project. The first phase involves researching what genes trigger hair cell regeneration in animals like chickens and what genes stop hair cell regeneration in mammals. Once this reaches a sufficient level of knowledge the researchers will then move onto phase two. Phase two involves using the knowledge from phase one to try to trigger hair cell regeneration in mammals. Then once phase two reaches a sufficient level then phase three can begin. Phase three involves developing drugs or therapies, perhaps stem and gene, to test in clinical trials whether they are effective. If anything is successful in phase three then there’s a good chance there will be a treatment to partially restore or a potential cure for hearing loss.
The benefit of the Hearing Restoration Project is that it allows researchers to collaborate and share ideas and help fund research. Essentially it wants to be like the Manhattan Project for hearing issues, but it wishes it had that kind of government support. They have set an ambitious time-line of 10 years for the establishing of treatments or cures.
I will admit that I’m skeptical of the 10 year claim because it’s not unusual to hear other claims like that for figuring out scientific or medical problems and then they figure one problem out, but another problem arises. However, I’m not a researcher so I cannot state whether it’s realistic or not.
Hearing, quite obviously, is an important sense. There is an erroneous belief that hearing loss is a senior citizen’s problem. It is not. Children develop hearing problems due to sickness or ear infections and this even happens to adults. Some people are unlucky enough that they suffer from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss and not only does their hearing not recover but it is completely wiped out. Yes, imagine waking up one day to use the phone and you turn it on and dial the number you want to call only to place the phone next to your ear and find out that you cannot hearing anything out of it. Don’t think of it as an impossibility because it can happen.
It’s also natural for people to lose hearing as they age (presbycusis). Presbycusis does not effect everyone equally though. Some people can go into their sixties without any hearing loss while some end up losing their hearing in their forties or fifties.
However, the problem with gradual hearing loss is that it’s not a “hearing today and gone tomorrow” type thing. It’s entirely possible for people to have mild or moderate hearing loss and not notice it. So it’s entirely possible that as you are reading this you could have hearing loss and not know about it unless you have had an audiogram recently.
Ok, How Can I Help?
The simplest way to help is to donate. Seriously, even five dollars would be beneficial. Small amount in large numbers means a large amount. So the best you can do is donate what you can. If you only donate 5 dollars a month that would be 60 annually. Now imagine if 30,000 people implemented this strategy…this would entail 1.8 million dollars. Of course, the second half of this strategy is to spread the word that hearing loss can be cured within the next decades and that someone’s support is essential.
Another thing you can do is spread awareness about hearing protection. If someone is going to a concert tell them to take ear plugs. If someone is listening to headphones tell them to check the volume. If someone is working with power tools or equipment, e.g. chain saw or lawn mower, tell them to use hearing protection.