YOUR HEALTH: Stopping sudden hearing loss

POMPONO BEACH, Florida – Hearing loss often occurs gradually but that's not always the case.

And those who suddenly lose their sense of hearing may have few options to correct the problem.

Just ask David Alboukrek.  He loves the sounds of nature, but one day he woke up unable to hear out of his left ear.

"Muffled sound, ringing in my ear," he remembered.

At first, he wasn't sure what was going on.

"You may think you have a cold or it's something that'll go away."

But when his hearing did not return, David went to see hearing specialist Dr. Mark Widick, a neural otolaryngologist in Boca Raton, Florida.

Dr. Widick says sudden hearing loss affects thousands of people every year and is often misdiagnosed.

"They will diagnose an infection when the hearing loss is not due to infection."

If not treated quickly, there could be permanent hearing loss.   Dr. Widick says patients need to get an audiogram.

"It's a test of the hearing that is very specific."

He says in most cases the blood vessel that feeds the entire hearing system is damaged.

"Once that happens it's like a stroke to the ear."

His team is now part of an Food and Drug Administration-approved trial testing a new drug, called AM-111, meant to stop the damage and save hearing.

But time is of the essence.

"The duration from onset of symptoms is less than 72 hours," explained Dr. Widick.

David did not get the study medication, but was treated with steroids to stop the inflammation.

His lesson for others: don't wait to get help.

"Because it was treated very early on, I was not left with any permanent hearing loss."

Allowing him to enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature once again.

The cause of sudden hearing loss is still not exactly known.

In David's case, he has been told his immune system probably attacked his hearing.

You can learn more about the study and find a clinic with details about the drug trial at the American Hearing Research Foundation website.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  The AM-111 was created by the Auris Medical Holding AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical dedicated to treating ear disorders. The product contains synthetic peptide brimapitide, a cell-penetrating inhibitor of the JNK stress kinase. This helps the AM-111 to prevent or reduce chronic hearing loss. The product has been demonstrated in various animal models of cochlear stress. The company is now working on Phase 3 of the program and is working closely with the FDA to accelerate the development of AM-111.
(Source: http://www.hearingreview.com/2017/02/auris-announces-fda-fast-track-designation-111/ )

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.comor Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.