A new project aiming to combat noise-induced hearing loss through innovative drug therapy will receive a £300,000 investment from hearing loss charity, Action on Hearing Loss.

The three-year project will involve experts from Pragma Therapeutics in France, as well as a team from the University of South Florida’s Hearing and Speech Research department. The team of researchers hope that the project will help develop the first drugs that can prevent or treat ongoing hearing problems.

If successful, the drugs being tested would normalise the mGlu7 receptor gene in a person’s central nervous system, which acts as a transmitter between the sensory cells in the ear and the nerves that carry speech information to the brain. By targeting this gene, the drugs could potentially help prevent or treat hearing loss.

The investment announcement coincides with Deaf Awareness Week, which takes place between 02 – 08 May. Deaf Awareness Week aims to improve perceptions of hearing loss and make people more deaf aware.

According to the Health and Safety Executive 17,000 people in the UK suffer from noise induced hearing loss caused by noise at work.

Jon Carlisle, national lead on deafness litigation at Thompsons Solicitors said: “While this project is an exciting development that could one day lead to a potential breakthrough in the treatment of hearing loss, more must be done to prevent the number of people being exposed every day to excessive noise at work.

“Employers are responsible for assessing the risks to employees and reducing the noise at source, and where that is not possible, providing suitable hearing protection. Yet with over 17,000 sufferers UK-wide it appears that too many employers are failing to adhere to basic health and safety laws, like providing and insisting on the wearing of ear defenders, in place to protect workers from noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus.”