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POP A PILL, SAVE YOUR EARS?

People who've had their ears damaged by gunfire, jackhammers or punk rock have traditionally had two choices: get hearing aids, or suffer in silence.But a new set of drugs, about to be tested on Marine recruits, is showing promise as a way to protect ears against the din.Noise causes harm either by tearing the inner ear -- so-called "mechanical" damage -- or by overstressing some of the cells there. This "metabolic exhaustion" starts a toxic chain reaction, killing off or severely weakening the cells.In a series of animal studies, antioxidant drugs have been able to counteract the exhaustion in animals, easing metabolic woes.A test on hundreds of Marine recruits, set to start next month, will be the first large-scale human trial. But that hasn't stopped a start-up from marketing one of the most promising antioxidants as a "hearing pill." And audiology experts are pissed.My Wired News article has details.

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