WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Stem Cell Treatment for Hearing Loss: What We Know So Far

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on March 16, 2021
Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat a number of conditions, including hearing loss.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants help many folks manage and cope with hearing loss. According to the National Library of Medicine, stem cell therapy could soon be another treatment for hearing loss. Stem cell therapy helps regenerate damaged parts of the ears, without the need for hearing aid devices. But there is still some way to go before stem cell treatment for hearing loss is made available to the general public.

When Will There Be Stem Cell Treatment for Hearing Loss?

According to Stanford Medicine, stem cell therapy involves transplanting new stem cells into the inner ears. The delicate hairs inside our cochlea, or inner ear, help us hear. Damage to these hairs can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Stem cells have the ability to function like other cells and also make new cells.These transplanted stem cells can behave exactly like the inner ear hairs and help restore hearing. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says that scientists have been successful in growing human inner ear hairs in a culture dish. But they are still working on transplanting these hair cells into human ears and getting them to restore hearing.

“Unfortunately, to date, the only studies that have been done are preclinical animal studies. No human studies have been performed,” Sreek Cherukuri, MD, clinical assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, tells WebMD Connect to Care. According to Cherukuri, that means we are likely 5-10 years or more away from having a meaningful stem cell treatment option for humans for hearing loss.

Current Treatments That Work

Depending on why you have lost your hearing, your doctor will suggest several treatment options that might work for you.

  • Hearing aids: Hearing aids greatly improve your quality of life by helping you hear better, according to NYU Langone Health. Most hearing aids are digital and adjust sound signals based on your degree of deafness, offering better hearing loss management. 
  • Cochlear implant: According to Mayo Clinic, electronic devices inserted into the cochlea can help to partially restore hearing. Your doctor will suggest that you get cochlear implants if you are no longer able to listen with the help of hearing aids.
  • Stapedectomy: Your doctor may suggest stapedectomy if your hearing loss is because of damage to a bone called stapes in the middle ear. According to NYU Langone Health, the stapes is removed and replaced with a prosthetic. Once the ear heals, your hearing returns to normal in a few weeks.  
  • Tympanoplasty: According to the Ear Surgery Information Center, tympanoplasty involves replacing or repairing your injured eardrum. Your surgeon will take tissues from healthy parts of your ear and graft them on top of the damaged eardrum. Over time the grafted tissue grows into the eardrum and your hearing is restored.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.