Baby boomers, who abused their ears with rock concerts and headphones, are surging into retirement. The hearing-assistance market is expanding, and this time the answer may not be a device—it may be a pill.

LISTEN UP, baby boomers (and others): Your damaged hearing may soon be improved—and it won’t require inserting a beige gizmo in your ear. Advances in molecular biology and bioinformatics have led to an explosion of research on the causes of hearing loss and how to fix it with drugs or gene therapy.

A crop of young biotech companies is sprouting up to develop medicines. Last fall, Boston-based Third Rock Ventures launched a startup

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