Kathleen Campbell, Ph.D. - SIU School of Medicine

Hearing is essential for a good quality of life. For some patients, even the best hearing aids aren’t strong enough. For deployed military personnel, noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a daily possibility. 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.

D-Methionine, or “D-Met,” may be the answer to treat and prevent noise induced hearing loss. D-Met is a component of fermented protein. It is a potent antioxidant present in many foods, including cheese and yogurt. “But you would have to eat pounds and pounds of these foods every day to receive any benefit,” said Kathleen Campbell, PhD., a researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.  “D-Met can be a Trojan Horse in that it can protect against hearing loss but can also provide other benefits once it is in a person’s system. It acts both directly and indirectly on the free radicals caused by oxidative stress.”

 With two patents and a current total of $3.8 million in current NIHL research funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, Campbell is close to finalizing Phase 3 clinical studies that will move D-Met closer to becoming the first clinical therapy to treat and prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

“D-Met may hold the key to improve the quality of life for individuals exposed to high noise levels, such as our troops in the military. It also may improve the quality of life for patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer or receiving IV antibiotics for moderate to severe infections. By controlling the side effects of these treatments, more patients may be able to complete the treatments with good quality of life, perhaps even with higher treatment doses,” Campbell said.