South American scientists have identified that a lack of cholesterol is linked to hearing loss in mice, and have found an effective treatment.
A study, led by the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) and National University of Córdoba, in Argentina, observed that the ears of older mice contained more of an enzyme that breaks down cholesterol than younger mice.
Age-related hearing loss is caused when the outer hair cells (OHCs) in the inner ear, which sense and amplify sound by stretching, stretch less in response to sound.
The team then tested whether this hearing loss may be tied to a loss of cholesterol, as cholesterol is important in this stretching response.
They showed, in the paper in PLOS Biology, that they could induce hearing loss in the younger animals by over-activating the enzyme that breaks down cholesterol.
They also gave these same mice common dietary (phytosterol) supplements containing cholesterol and found that this could improve how the mice’s OHCs functioned after three weeks.
Because these supplements can be obtained over the counter, the findings may lead to a possible treatment for humans, the authors said.