A cheesy at­tempt at im­prov­ing our hear­ing

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

IT MIGHT sound crack­ers, but cheese could hold the se­cret to bet­ter hear­ing.

Sci­en­tists be­lieve that it con­tains a chem­i­cal com­pound that could pre­vent or cure deafness caused by ex­po­sure to loud noise.

In an­i­mals, D-me­thio­n­ine has been found to help pro­tect against – and even re­verse – dam­age to nerve cells in the ear.

It is to be tested on 600 hu­mans, taken from the US Army. The study will find out if the com­pound, which is also found in yo­ghurt, pro­tects the sol­diers from per­ma­nent hear­ing dam­age caused by the noise of gun­fire.

Ex­po­sure to loud sounds can dam­age hair-like nerve cells in the cochlea, a spi­ral-shaped part of the in­ner ear which helps send sound sig­nals to the brain.

One the­ory is that the noise trig­gers the re­lease of dam­ag­ing chem­i­cals called free rad­i­cals, which can be neu­tralised by D-me­thio­n­ine, an amino acid. Other re­search has shown that the chem­i­cal can even re­verse hear­ing loss if given within seven hours of ex­po­sure to loud noise. No drugs are cur­rently avail­able that can achieve the same ef­fect.

In the army trial, some re­cruits will take the com­pound in a drink after their weapons train­ing, and oth­ers will take a placebo. All will have their hear­ing tested sev­eral days later.

Doc­tors car­ry­ing out the clin­i­cal trial said: “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.”

But you would have to eat an aw­ful lot of cheese to get a ben­e­fit. The quan­tity of D-me­thio­n­ine given to sol­diers is the same as would be found in 2.3kg of cheese.

Maybe it would be bet­ter pro­tec­tion against loud noise if you just stuffed it in your ears.

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