According to the National Institutes of Health, any damage to these specialized cells in humans and other mammals can lead to irreversible hearing loss because of the cells’ inability to regenerate. In contrast, non-mammals like reptiles, fish, and birds possess the ability to regenerate theirs and, consequently, recover from hearing loss.
To be specific, damaged hair cells lead to sensorineural hearing loss or nerve-related hearing loss, a type of hearing loss that is caused by damage to inner ear hair cells or nerve fibers in the inner ear. At present, sensorineural hearing loss still has no cure.
Interestingly, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America successfully identified and tested a cocktail of drug-like molecules that would reprogram supporting cells in the ears of adult mice to convert into cells similar to hair cells. This groundbreaking research could potentially pave the way for innovative treatments for hearing loss in the future.