OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - It's something that almost seems too good to be true - a pill that could help restore hearing.
However, it's getting closer to becoming a reality after years of trials stemming from experts right here in Oklahoma City.
This could bring hope for the estimated 58,000 Oklahomans and 466 million people worldwide dealing with noise-induced hearing loss.
Currently, there's no drug treatment or cure for noise-induced hearing loss. But at the Hough Ear Institute, they've been working to make it a reality in the form of a pill.
"We also have a hearing loss injection and an inner-ear drug delivery system," said Justin De Moss, with the Hough Ear Institute.
For years, researchers at the Hough Ear Institute and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have been working to find a pharmacological approach to improve hearing, without devices like hearing aids.
The pill they've developed regenerates nerve endings between the cochlea and auditory nerve.
Doctors say it is essentially like taking out foam earplugs.
"That's the amount of hearing recovery that we see in the pill, roughly," De Moss said.
So far, they've tested the safety on humans. Next comes gauging the full range of effectiveness.
The Hough Ear Institute's pharmaceutical partner Auditus LLC has entered into an agreement with biotech firm Oblato Inc., giving them exclusive rights to the drug.
"The research has advanced so quickly with this pill and injection and that's what's attracted this biotech firm to say, 'hey, this is something we want to invest in,'" said De Moss. "So they're going to invest millions of dollars to see if it works in humans."
The hope is to provide a long-term solution that won't break the bank.
"We're looking at the pill and the injection both costing less than the price of a single hearing aid after the first initial year, two years after release," De Moss said.
They don't anticipate these injections or pills being something patients need to take the rest of their lives to restore and maintain their hearing.
“Funds from many generous donors and investors from the Oklahoma City community and beyond made the impossible possible through innovation,” said Dr. Richard Kopke, CEO of the Hough Ear Institute. “OPI investors including Innovation to Enterprise (I2E), the Chickasaw Nation, OMRF, INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center (IBMC), the Oklahoma Life Science Fund, REHCO, LLC, Presbyterian Health Foundation, together with significant grant funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) and funding from generous donors worldwide have all played a significant role in moving this research forward. Under the leadership of Stan Hupfeld and then Bruce Lawrence, IBMC’s generous collaborative support established the foundation that led to these breakthroughs. We want to extend a special thank you to other generous donors who made this possible.”