Washington, May 1 : An audiologist at North-western University is working on developing a cure for people suffering from tinnitus, a chronic ringing and whooshing sound in the ears, and he says that zebrafish may help him in his quest.
Tinnitus is often caused due to exposure to loud noises that damage and destroy hair cells of the inner ear. This condition is mostly seen among army troops.
Researcher Ernest Moore, who also suffers from the same disability, is conducting studies to find a suitable cure for the condition.
Moore has been conducting his research over a zebrafish, whose ears are believed be remarkably similar to humans.
He was able to successfully cause ringing in their ears by exposing them to certain drugs and tracking their erratic swimming on video.
He then looked at the cells in their ears to see if the electrical firing has increased, which is considered to be an early sign of damage and tinnitus. The early findings showed an increased firing.
"Ears don't bleed from tinnitus. It's a hidden problem. It's not obvious and dramatic like a heart attack or cancer although it torments its sufferers," said Moore.
Moore tried to block this effect with drugs to return the cells to their normal activity.
The preliminary findings have shown that the drugs do slow down the increased electrical firing or tinnitus-like behaviours of the hair cells in the ear.
"If these drugs are found to be safe -- and some are already on the market for other uses -- and if they are found to have efficacy in humans, then they might be used to treat an individual's tinnitus," he said.
"If the hair cell is not totally damaged -- just beginning to break down, and you administer these drugs, you might be able to prevent it from further damage and interfere with the cells' ability to generate tinnitus," he added.
Moore is now meeting doctors to discuss launching a clinical trial to test these drugs for patients with tinnitus.