Drugs hope for tinnitus sufferers
The first drugs to treat hearing conditions such as tinnitus could be available in the next five years, according to a new report.
The charity Action on Hearing Loss said that with five drugs already in the final stages of clinical testing and a further 13 in the early stages of clinical development, it expects the first new products to be approved and on the market by 2020.
Around one in six people in the UK lives with some kind of hearing loss - around 10 million people.
It is associated with age, and with the ageing population it has been estimated that more than 14.5 million people - or one in four - will be affected by 2031, which the charity said is a potential public health crisis, like dementia.
Although not a killer, the charity said hearing problems can have huge personal and social costs and currently available treatments are largely limited to hearing aids and cochlear implants.
It said new drugs could help alleviate some types of tinnitus, reduce hearing loss associated with loud noise exposure, middle ear infections and counter specific anti-cancer drugs that cause hearing loss.
Action on Hearing Loss chief executive Paul Breckell said: "Remarkable progress has been made bringing us to a point where there are a number of promising new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus being clinically tested.
"We're about to enter a new exciting era where people confronting hearing loss won't just be limited to hearing aids and cochlear implants - drug treatments are within touching distance.
"Currently 10 million people in the UK have a hearing loss, which will increase to 14.5 million by 2031. As we're experiencing now with dementia, hearing loss is a potential public health crisis, so we will continue to fund research into new treatments."