OKC Scientists Develop Medicine To Protect Soldiers' Hearing In War Zones

Friday, October 21st 2011, 5:45 pm
By: News 9

Chris McKinnon, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's estimated somewhere between a third and three-quarters of our troops coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from hearing loss.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said hearing loss is the number one disability for veterans from the War on Terror. Now, right here in Oklahoma City, there's a project aimed at preventing this disability.

Army veteran Gerald Williams lost his hearing due to blast exposure during his military service. Just like tons of thousands facing the same risks today.

"We talked about the IEDs and that's just something they're experiencing consistently in the wars that are on-going right now," Williams said.

Those blasts cause permanent hearing loss. But scientists at the Hough Ear Institute aim to make that loss a thing of the past for veterans.

"The records we have right now on returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, depending on the report, it's anywhere from 38 to somewhere in the 70 percent of the military personnel have significant hearing loss as a result of exposure to blast overpressures," said Dr. Don Ewert with the Hough Ear Institute.

Dr. Ewert said the antioxidant medicine his team developed works. The challenge now is making it more practical for the battle field.

"Ultimately it would mean that a soldier could carry a pill with them and administer it themselves whenever they needed it," Dr. Ewert said.

For Williams, this advancement is crucial.

"Soldiers going in to a war into the battle arena need to know that if something does happen to them that their country is going to stand behind them and help them through it," Dr. Ewert said.

It's estimated close to 60,000 veterans are on disability for hearing loss according to the VA. So the Hough Institute said technological advances, like this new drug, are extremely important for veterans.

And the Hough Ear Institute has even bigger goals for the future. It is working on cutting-edge technology that will actually regenerate hearing.