A widely used anti-cancer drug, cisplatin, can cause permanent and severe hearing loss, having a devastating impact on the quality of life for cancer survivors. In a new Hearing Progress report launched today, Action on Hearing Loss highlights a new research study it is funding to urgently discover ways of preventing this life changing side-effect.

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Microscopic image of cells in the inner ear. Copyright: RNID Images’

Cisplatin causes the sensory hair cells in the inner ear that detect sound to die. An Action on Hearing Loss-funded study at the University of Sussex aims to discover how the anti-cancer drug gets into the sensory hair cells. A search for compounds that can either prevent cisplatin from being taken-up by the hair cells or prevent the hair cells from dying following treatment with cisplatin is already underway. It is hoped that this will ultimately lead to the development of a drug that could be co-administered with cisplatin to prevent loss of hearing.

Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive Paul Breckell, said:

“Over the last 40 years cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled. Whilst this is clearly a cause to celebrate, we should not forget that the lives of many survivors can be seriously affected by the side effects of their treatment. That is why we are funding research into discovering ways to protect the hearing of people treated with cisplatin, which is known to damage people’s hearing which in turn can leave them isolated, depressed and upset.”


Copyright: RNID Images

Action on Hearing Loss is the only UK source of funding dedicated to hearing research and last year it invested £1.6million in finding treatments and improving technology to support those with deafness, hearing loss and tinnitus to live the life they choose. The Hearing Progress report highlights significant progress made by the charity  over the last year to advance treatments to prevent hearing loss, restore hearing and silence tinnitus. Breakthroughs have included discovering genes linked to common hearing conditions such as glue ear and otosclerosis, establishing a possible link between tinnitus and subtle damage to the auditory system that is not detected by standard hearing tests, and how pharmacological treatments can make the auditory nerve easier to stimulate – which could lead to cochlear implants that require less power and are more precise, giving a better sound quality.

Bio-medical research. Copyright: RNID Images’s Image

Bio-medical research. Copyright: RNID Images’s Image

Action on Hearing Loss Head of Biomedical Research Ralph Holme, added:

“We believe cures for hearing loss and tinnitus are within touching distance. Our research has already transformed lives through cochlear implants, better hearing aids and better diagnosis. We are the largest donor funded hearing loss charity in the UK and thanks to the generous backing of our charity supporters we believe that together we can find cures.”

Hearing Progress – Update on our search for treatments and cures in 2015 is available now via the following link, www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/your-hearing/biomedical-research/projects-and-research/reports-and-progress-in-biomedical-research.aspx.