A bioidentical hormone known as aldosterone may soon make hearing aids obsolete in people with age-related hearing loss. This is excellent news for anyone facing the social stigma of hearing loss or the instant admission of aging announced by the wearing of a hearing aid.
Aldosterone is a steroid from the mineralocorticoid family that is produced in ample supply by the adrenal glands of young healthy people. But as we age, we lose the ability to make sufficient amounts of aldosterone just as we do with other steroid hormones.
Aldosterone controls levels of two important signaling elements in the body, potassium and sodium. Having optimal levels of these elements in the inner ear is essential for hearing, as they each play a critical role in the conversion of sound into signals recognizable by the nervous system. When levels of aldosterone decrease as the result of aging, levels of potassium and sodium drop in the fluid of the inner ear where sounds are converted into signals the brain can identify. The result is gradual but progressive loss of sound intensity and word recognition.
Research has documented the power of aldosterone
Two research teams have been highly instrumental in providing the groundwork on aldosterone and hearing loss. In 2005, a team from the Rochester Institute of Technology, lead by Robert Frisina and including scientists from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, evaluated the relationship of blood levels of aldosterone and hearing loss in 47 people, ages 58 to 84. The team concluded:
- The higher the blood levels of aldosterone in humans, the better their hearing
- People who showed extensive hearing loss had only half as much circulating aldosterone as those with normal hearing
- The ability to discriminate sounds in the presence of background noise correlates with circulating levels of aldosterone
In 2009, Dennis Trune and his research group at the Oregon Health & Science University found that aldosterone has the equivalent effect of glucocorticoids in reversing lost hearing in mice who consumed aldosterone in their drinking water. Glucocorticoids are chemicals that can stop inflammation, but have many dangerous side effects.
In 2006, Trune’s team discovered a reversal in hearing loss with via increasing sodium transport in mice. This finding demonstrated that not only potassium, but sodium as well is increased in the nerve endings in the inner ear with aldosterone. During this investigation, researchers also verified that the physiology of the inner and middle ear is improved with aldosterone.
Bioidentical aldosterone replacement
If sub-optimal levels of aldosterone have been found to promote hearing loss, the ideal intervention would be to replace aldosterone to optimal levels, the levels seen in young healthy people.
Anti-aging specialist Jonathan Wright, famed M.D. and founder of the Tahoma Clinic near Seattle, has done just that. He uses bioidentical aldosterone to treat his patients with age-related hearing loss, and has revealed stunning results.
He began with a patient suffering from an autoimmune disease known as Meniere’s. The patient was prescribed 125 mcg of bioidentical aldosterone to be taken twice daily for seven months. At the end of that time, the patient had regained 30 decibles in his almost deaf left ear. His sound discrimination improved from 70% to 95% in his right ear, and from 20% to 65% in his left ear.
Another patient had lost his hearing almost completely and revealed a low level of circulating aldosterone. After taking treatment with bioidentical aldosterone, his hearing returned to the average range. Then he discontinued treatment and lost his hearing again. When he finally resumed aldosterone, his hearing bounced back to the normal range.
Dr. Wright has treated several other patients with bioidentical aldosterone , including an 84 year old who had sustained hearing loss for a decade. Six weeks after being treated with aldosterone, he had recovered 35 decibles in one ear, and his sound discrimination had increased from 23% to 91%. Sound discrimination improved in his other ear from 23% to 81%.
Is aldosterone treatment safe? Dr. Wright puts it this way:
“None of the people I’ve worked with have had any adverse effects from aldosterone therapy, likely because the use of bioidentical, physiologic-dose aldosterone restores levels to those that would be found in the body anyway.”
Dr. Wright is currently heading a long term study of hearing loss treated with aldosterone.
Bioidentical hormones are not drugs
Bioidentical hormones are not synthetic hormones and must not be confused with the synthetic hormone substitution drugs that caused so many problems more than a decade ago. Bioidentical hormones are made from natural plant ingredients to be exact replicas of the hormones naturally produced in the body. If examined under a microscope, no difference can be detected. As a result, bioidentical hormones have the exact same actions in the body as hormones produced there. Because bioidentical hormones are completely natural, they cannot be patented.
The term physiologic doses describes the process of prescribing enough hormone to bring the patient up to the levels he/she once had before hormone loss began.
The latest advance in aldosterone replacement
Dr. Richard Lippman, father of the nicotine patch, has developed a protocol of aldosterone capsules that can improve hearing by more than 30 decibels when continued for several months. He points out that 30 plus decibels means the difference between deafness and fairly normal hearing. For example, after following his protocol for a month, the hearing impaired are able to carry on a conversation at a loud party with high volume background music.
For patients who have difficulties with word recognition even after increased decibles, Dr. Lippman recommends Aldo Spray, a new aldosterone delivery system which slowly time-releases the hormone as eardrops.
Dr. Lippman tells the story of two physician friends who were skeptical and feared changing their old habit of recommending only hearing aids to their patients. They asked why he bothered with capsules or sprays.
“Why not just buy a hearing aid?” one of the doctors asked.
Lippman answered with a question: “What makes better medical sense, taking one capsule or spray daily for correcting a hormone deficiency, or amplifying the volume on an already damaged hearing system?”