Permanent hearing loss affects more than 5% of the world’s population, yet there are no nondevice therapies that can protect or restore hearing. Delivery of therapeutics to the cochlea and vestibular system of the inner ear is complicated by their inaccessible location. Drug delivery to the inner ear via the vasculature is an attractive noninvasive strategy, yet the blood-labyrinth barrier at the luminal surface of inner ear capillaries restricts entry of most blood-borne compounds into inner ear tissues. Here, we compare the blood-labyrinth barrier to the blood-brain barrier, discuss invasive intratympanic and intracochlear drug delivery methods, and evaluate noninvasive strategies for drug delivery to the inner ear.
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