SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant for Treatment of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss


August 9, 2012

SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant for Treatment of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

A research scientist and inventor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for a study to determine optimal dosages and timing of dosages of D-methionine (D-met) for protection and rescue from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). 

Kathleen C. M. Campbell, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery and director of the division’s audiology research, is the principal investigator for the three-year project.

D-met is a component of fermented protein and is a potent antioxidant present in many foods, but it is only effective in preventing or treating NIHL in concentrated doses. Campbell’s laboratory at SIU discovered and patented it to prevent and treat NIHL.

The first year of the study will examine the effects of various dosing levels of D-met in preventing NIHL for different types of noise exposures on animal models. D-met can also be first administered after noise-exposure ends, but before the hearing loss becomes permanent. The second year will determine the maximum time delay for effective D-met protection. The third year will further define maximum time delay for D-met post-noise protection from permanent NIHL and also determine if additional dosing further improves protection and rescue. The data will ultimately support future clinical trials of D-met for hearing protection in military populations.

“We have previously proven that D-met pre-and post-administration provides virtually complete protection from permanent noise-induced hearing loss secondary to a high intensity six-hour exposure in preclinical studies,” said Campbell. “We now want to determine the lowest D-met dose that is maximally effective for different types of noise exposures and how long we can wait to start treatment to intervene once hearing loss has occurred.”

Although the Department of Defense has had hearing conservation programs since the 1970’s, including universal hearing protection (muffs and/or plugs) and monitoring and tracking, disability claims are increasing.  The U.S. military receives more than 22,000 new claims per year for NIHL.  NIHL is the most common reason that some U.S. soldiers cannot be redeployed. Hearing disability increases the risk of death not only for the soldier with hearing loss but also for fellow troops because of impaired communication and inability to quickly detect hazards or locate the enemy. NIHL is estimated to cost the Veteran’s Administration more than $1 billion annually. Noise-induced tinnitus (ringing in the ears) costs an estimated additional $1 billion per year. Permanent NIHL affects more than 10 million Americans, and work-related noise exposure affects close to 30 million Americans.

Campbell’s research on drug and NIHL research has received more than $8.2 million in national and international funding and patent income. She has served as principal investigator on more than 20 research grants and contracts funded by agencies such as the Veterans Administration, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging and National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders. She also has been issued six U.S. patents for her work. Campbell’s research is focused on ototoxicity and otoprotective agents. 

She joined SIU’s faculty in 1989. Previously, Campbell was in charge of electrophysiologic measures for the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Iowa (UI) in Iowa City (1982-88), and a clinician in British Columbia, starting the first audiology clinic in the Canadian Rockies for BC Public Health (1977-82). She earned her doctorate degree in auditory science at UI (1989), her master’s in clinical audiology at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion (1977) and her bachelor’s at South Dakota State University in Brookings (1973). 

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