The loss of a sense can be devastating, coupled with the fact that they are not restored once completely lost. However, there may be future hope for people suffering from hearing loss. A recent study published in Nature Biotechnology showed that deaf mice with Usher syndrome given gene therapy have been able to recuperate hearing, up to the point of being able to detect sounds down to 25 decibels or a whisper. This is accomplished by “infecting” the mice with a synthetic virus that repairs ear hairs, vital for translating sounds into electric signals that the brain can read.
Usher syndrome is but one of hundreds of reasons that hearing could be impaired, a rare inherited disease that has autosomal recessive genetic traits. Most sufferers are born completely or mildly deaf. It affects an estimated three in according to raredisease.org.
The WHO places the number of people suffering from disabling hearing loss (defined at 40 decibels in adults and 30 decibels in children) at 360 million worldwide.