Hearing loss has many causes including genetic disorders, extended exposure to dangerously loud sounds and normal aging. Hearing aids can’t repair the damage regardless of the cause. Taking a different approach that uses biology and technology, researchers at Princeton are developing a bionic ear that contains biological and electronic materials, including bovine or cow cells, silicone, and silver nanoparticles. The structure of cartilage cells from cows is similar to that of human cells, and bovine cells are much easier to obtain.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is largely responsible for irreversible hearing damage. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to a loud sound or continued exposure to high-decibel noises. Researchers at the University of Iowa are now turning to the common fruit fly to study and combat NIHL in humans. The fruit fly is the ideal animal model because the molecular structure of its ear is more similar to humans than that of rats or guinea pigs, meaning tests on fruit flies yield more accurate results.