Karen – Hearing Impairment
Karen until recently never knew what it was like to suffer from hearing loss. In 2019, whilst recovering from the flu which had developed into pneumonia and a serious ear infection, Karen woke one day to realise she suddenly could not hear from her right ear and now she has to wear a hearing aid.
Karen’s hair cells in her inner ear were irreversibly damaged by the ear infection and unfortunately this type of hearing loss, known as sudden onset is more common than people think.
Noisy environments are a great challenge, and Karen often finds herself taking the hearing aid out as the background noise resonance is bad. As the sound through the hearing aid is dulled, Karen needs to work really hard to hear, especially when a lot of people are talking at once; and it is exhausting. Karen makes an effort to go out and keep active, but the simple act of meeting friends in a restaurant and following conversation is hard work.
Karen loves spending time with her young grandchildren; however not being able to hear them properly is disheartening. Karen’s family are very understanding and supportive of the issues she now faces however Karen has found it lonely and frustrating and feels her quality of life has been affected. Although Karen is determined to stay positive and focuses on all the great aspects of her life, she is also keen to improve her hearing as much as possible, and was very excited when she read about the research the Bionics Institute is working on.
The Institute’s hearing therapeutics research team, led by A/Prof Andrew Wise in collaboration with leading ear-nose-and-throat specialist Dr Sherryl Wagstaff, are developing new treatments to repair and protect sensory cells in the inner ear. Research has shown that the delivery of specific drugs to the inner ear not only prevent the loss of sensory cells, but can promote regrowth of the nerve fibres and their reconnection with the sensory hair cells (which in Karen’s case have been damaged). These findings highlight the real possibility of developing therapies that can treat, and potentially reverse, hearing loss.
For people like Karen, this research would be life-changing. Click here to read more about this research.
If the research was successful, it would give me back what I have lost. I feel a sense of loss and I feel it acutely every day. What I have been through is life changing. If the research was successful, the Bionics Institute would give me my life back. Karen