View Full Version : Noise protection — straight from a bottle

12-13-03, 03:37 PM
Issue Date: December 15, 2003

Noise protection — straight from a bottle
Researchers develop pills that reduce the boom of battle

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

SAN DIEGO — Got a ringing in your ears? Is the sound of an artillery battery in action too loud for you? Relief might be just around the corner — and you don’t have to cover your ears to get it.
A new over-the-counter pill hitting the market may be the military’s first line of defense against job-related noises that can cause hearing loss and ringing in the ears — a leading cause of disability among military veterans.

A San Diego pharmaceutical company working in concert with military medical researchers and product-development teams developed the “Hearing Pill,” which hit the market this month.

“It’s a key milestone,” said Army Col. Richard Kopke, a military audiology researcher and co-director of the Department of Defense Spatial Orientation Center at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. “It is exciting. We are looking forward to getting off the ground.

“This will be something that troops can take with them to a firefight,” Kopke added.

The Hearing Pill is the trademarked name for a capsule developed by American BioHealth Group, a pharmaceutical company in San Diego that holds an exclusive license with the Navy for developing products to treat acute and noise-induced hearing loss. Chairman and chief executive officer David Karlman said the capsule — which is part pharmaceutical, part nutritional supplement — will help prevent hearing damage by bolstering the ear’s defenses, even days after exposure to loud noise.

Karlman said findings from upcoming clinical trials, including tests on Marine recruits in San Diego, will enable the company to label the pill as “clinically proven.”

How it works

The pill’s active ingredient is a pharmaceutical grade of n-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, an amino acid that helps synthesize antioxidants, the body’s natural protectors against cell damage. The FDA-approved NAC long has been used for treatment of various ailments, including bronchitis and neurodegenerative diseases, and in vitamins popular with fitness buffs and body builders.

Normally, loud noises cause “oxidative stress” in the inner ear that restricts the natural defenses that fight off toxins from “free radicals” produced in the cochlea in reaction to noise. Those toxins kill hair cells that help translate noise into recognizable sounds.

Medical researchers found that antioxidants help boost the ear’s natural defenses by battling free radicals to prevent or minimize damage to hair cells.

Research shows that loud noises, whether short-lived “impulse” sounds such as an explosion or sustained noise, such as the sound produced by an engine, can degrade a person’s hearing by overwhelming the ear’s defenses. Damage varies by person and by extent and length of exposure, researchers say.

The effect of “impulse” noise generally is the same whether it’s a rifle firing, a mortar shell exploding or a jet engine running, Kopke said.

Noises above about 85 decibels are considered loud and could contribute to some hearing problems. Such hearing-protection devices as foam earplugs and other headgear provide about 20 to 30 decibels of protection. Military jobs most at risk for hearing loss include air crewmen and main-propulsion technicians, according to a 1998-1999 study.

Kopke said the hearing pill is most effective when used in conjunction with earplugs and noise-reducing headsets. The pill would effectively reduce tinnitus or temporary hearing loss, even if taken hours after a loud event. Researchers hope to extend that treatment time, ultimately to develop products that will restore hearing or reverse the damage.

Medical experts say the “treatment window” could be as long as four or five days after a loud event.

The standard dosage of the hearing pill is 500 milligrams in two capsules, taken twice daily, Karlman said. “We know that this product has a healing capability,” Karlman said, adding that it also “holds promise for tinnitus,” also the subject of an ongoing military study. The military, including the Office of Naval Research and the Army, has pumped roughly $5 million into hearing research in recent years.

Testing on Marines

Two planned clinical trials of the pill will involve military personnel.

In January, recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego will take the pill or a placebo in a six-week clinical trial funded by the Army Special Operations Command and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Kopke said. A 2001 study he led found a 10 percent hearing loss among recruits after two weeks of rifle marksmanship training.

In March, BuMed is sponsoring a trial that will look at post-event treatment and involve Marines and soldiers.

“People are going to be out training, and those who develop an acute hearing loss in the training will be given an opportunity to get their hearing tested properly” and be given the pill, Kopke said.

The company is offering 90-pill bottles commercially for $21.95. The pills are sold through its Web site at www.thehearingpill.com.




12-13-03, 03:55 PM
Yeah, I HEARD (get it? HAW!) about these!

Wish I'd have had them.

I'm real careful about my hearing now. I wear the little foamy ears when I race, wear the sound canceling shooting attenuaters, etc.

Semper Fi