Location: North West England
A compound that is present in cheese may be able to help restore hearing function in patients who are experiencing hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises, new research suggests.
Scientists from Southern Illinois University in the US have been exploring the effects of D-methionine - a compound naturally found in dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt - on the hearing, beginning their investigation with animals. They found that increasing consumption of the chemical helped to repair noise-induced hearing loss.
The study authors commented: "We have documented in animal studies that administration of D-methionine can reduce or prevent noise-induced hearing loss. We now need to determine if it has similar efficacy in humans."
In order to do this, 600 volunteers from the US army have agreed to eat more cheese and have the effects of their new diet monitored to see if this helps to restore any of their hearing function following exposure to loud explosions and noisy machinery.
Researchers believe that D-methionine is so effective in this situation because it is an amino acid and can therefore neutralise the free radicals - which are another type of chemical - that are released when the ears are exposed to loud noises, leading to hearing decline. This chemical release causes damage to the miniscule hair-like cells in the cochlear that are essential for transmitting sounds to the brain.
However, by eating more products containing D-methionine, people may be able to reverse this damage and restore some of their hearing function. It will be important for audiologists and dieticians alike to recommend controlled portions of cheese and other dairy products, as these foodstuffs can be high in fat.
The initial trials involving animal models also found that the effects of D-methionine could be experienced very soon after hearing damage occurred. The scientists working on the study discovered that consuming a certain amount of D-methionine within seven hours of the loud noise exposure could prevent any long-term hearing function decline from occurring in the first place.
Written by James Puckle
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