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Keywords:

  • neurotrophins;
  • neural protection;
  • cochlear implant

Abstract

Sensorineural hearing loss, as a result of damage to or destruction of the sensory epithelia within the cochlea, is a common cause of deafness. The subsequent degeneration of the neural elements within the inner ear may impinge upon the efficacy of the cochlear implant. Experimental studies have demonstrated that neurotrophic factors can prevent this degeneration in animal models of deafness, and can even provide functional benefits. Neurotrophic factor therapy may therefore provide similar protective effects in humans, resulting in improved speech perception outcomes among cochlear implant patients. There are, however, numerous issues pertaining to delivery techniques and treatment regimes that need to be addressed prior to any clinical application. This review considers these issues in view of the potential therapeutic application of neurotrophic factors within the auditory system.