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December 26, 2003

Marines Help Test Hearing-Loss Drug

From: Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA - Dec 26, 2003

FRIDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Six hundred U.S. Marines taking part in upcoming war games will test a new drug designed to protect their hearing from the destructive noise of battle.

The drug is N-acetylcystine (NAC). It is an antioxidant compound that loosens mucus in airways and treats liver damage from overuse of acetaminophen. But research has shown it might also help prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

During two weeks of war games, Marines will swallow a glass of drink containing NAC at every meal. Their hearing tests will be compared with fellow Marines who won't receive the drug.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by oxidative stress, or damage created by too many free oxygen molecules. The molecules kill the delicate hair cells of the inner ear, which convert sound waves into electrical impulses.

Animal trials have led researchers at the University of Buffalo's Center for Hearing and Deafness to believe the use of antioxidant compounds can protect the hair cells of human ears from damage. They expect to complete the results of this clinical trial by next spring.

© 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution