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Professor Matthew Holley
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Sunday, 25 March, 2001, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
Ear cells 'could restore hearing'
Ear test
Technology could end deafness for some
Scientists have engineered ear cells that could be transplanted into humans to arrest hearing loss or even regenerate long-lost hearing.

The work has been carried out by Professor Matthew Holley, of the University of Bristol, UK.

This opens up the prospect of making implants more effective and using them on a much wider scale

Professor Matthew Holley, University of Bristol
He envisages the cells working in tandem with inner ear implants to restore hearing by promoting nerve regeneration.

Professor Holley will unveil his work at a conference on Genetics and Deafness organised by the charity Defeating Deafness and the UK Council on Deafness in London on Monday.

He said: "Cochlear implants, small devices which stimulate the auditory nerve, work very well in a limited way.

"But they cannot be given to long-term deaf people because their auditory nerves have degenerated too far. Replacement nerve cells could improve the electrical contact between the implant and the brain.

"This opens up the prospect of making implants more effective and using them on a much wider scale. We may be in a position to make these advances in three to five years' time."

'Equality and acceptance'

A spokesperson for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) said: "Currently, not all deaf people can benefit from a cochlear implant. Professor Holley's work on nerve regeneration may broaden this scope.

"RNID welcomes any progress which may open up the possibility of benefiting from a cochlear implant to those deaf people who would wish to have one.

"We look forward to studying the results of the research."

However, Stephen Rooney, of the British Deaf Association, said researchers were wrong to see deafness simply as something that should be cured.

"Deaf people are proud of their culture, history and language. They are not looking for a 'cure', but for equality and acceptance."

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28 Jun 00 | Health
Hearing tests for all newborns
18 Jan 00 | Health
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