The ability to hear and communicate are critical for effective command, control, unit safety, and mission accomplishment. Despite current efforts toward hearing preservation, military hearing loss is still on the rise. Hearing loss and tinnitus are the top two service-related disabilities in veterans with 1.6 million and 1.1 million veterans, respectively, receiving disability, costing $2 billion annually. To combat these conditions, the Department of Defense initiated its first program for hearing restoration by committing $10 million per year through several grants, including one at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Research teams in the IU 3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group investigate the restoration of hearing and promotion of hair-cell regeneration by studying how specific chemical compounds can trigger hair-cell regeneration after damage. The research group is also the first lab in the world to generate inner ear tissue from human stem cells.