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January 04, 2010

Creatine – A Possible Weapon Against Tinnitus And Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

GirlEar When we think of bodily structures capable of producing powerful “bursts” of energy, we usually think, first, of the skeletal muscles; then perhaps, of the brain, heart, or nervous system.

On a cellular level, however, the ability to respond to stimuli with a rapid generation of energy is important to cells throughout the body.

The hair cells of the inner ear are a perfect example.

When stimulated by sound waves, the hair cells of the inner ear convert this stimulus into the electrical–neurological signals we perceive as sound. When all is functioning properly, hair cells are known for their particularly rapid response to even mild auditory stimulation.

But, of course, hearing loss – caused by progressive damage to this delicate system – is one of the hallmarks of the aging process.

Creatine In The Auditory System

As we have seen elsewhere, creatine kinase is a key enzyme involved the metabolic cycle which uses creatine to quickly “recycle” cellular energy in the form of ATP. Recently, researchers have discovered that the hair cells of the inner ear exhibit notable creatine kinase activity.

Study Link – Hair bundles are specialized for ATP delivery via creatine kinase.

Quote from the above study:

Consistent with this critical role in hair bundle function, the creatine kinase circuit is essential for high–sensitivity hearing as demonstrated by hearing loss in creatine kinase knockout mice.

Like our muscles which are able to use creatine to generate powerful contractions in “emergency” situations, it seems that the rapid functioning of these hair cells is driven by this “creatine circuit” as well.

Subsequently, researchers wondered if supplementing with creatine would be able to reduce the severity of noise–induced hearing loss. The following study (in which creatine was administered to guinea pigs in combination with the free radical scavenger, tempol) showed promising results:

Study Link – Creatine and tempol attenuate noise–induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Quote from the above study:

Hair cell loss on day 10 was equally attenuated by creatine and tempol alone or in combination. Our results indicate that the maintenance of ATP levels is important in attenuating both temporary and permanent NIHL, while the scavenging of free radicals provides protection from permanent NIHL.

As a result of these findings, researchers have noted that creatine may be worthwhile to study in relation to tinnitus (i.e., a constant ringing in the ears in the absence of external sound) and other degenerative hearing–loss conditions in humans. The use of supplemental creatine as a preventative measure by those exposed to high noise levels has been suggested as well.

So, yet again, we find that creatine is likely to exhibit far–reaching health benefits beyond the realm of our skeletal muscles. Those of us who seek to maintain our health well into our golden years may want to make creatine supplementation a priority – and, of course, those of us in it for the “long–haul” will be well–served to always choose the purest creatine supplement possible.

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