A male doctor is checking an elderly woman's ear to see if she needs a cochlear implant.

Cochlear Implant Performance: Improving

A male doctor is checking an elderly woman's ear to see if she needs a cochlear implant.

Improvements to the cochlear implant brings new hope to those with hearing loss.

Those who deal with hearing damage suffer from a series of issues. These issues include hearing loss, difficulties understanding others, poor speech, and other communication problems. A cochlear implant is a tools used to combat this type of hearing loss. Every year, scientists research the effectiveness of this surgical implant.

Their research helps them discover new ways to make the device work better. One study found that the level of hearing damage a person has suffered does not determine how well a cochlear implant works. Another study discovered that the benefits were significant.

Why Is the Cochlear Implant Effective?

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically inserted into person’s ear. Using a microphone, the device converts external noise to digital signals. These signals are sent to the auditory nerve and processed by the brain as sound.

The cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. The aid amplifies sound for damaged ears, while the implant works around the damage and directly stimulates the auditory nerve.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute tested individuals with significant, little, and no residual hearing prior to their cochlear implant surgery. What they found is that those who had the worse hearing damage experienced substantial improvements in hearing. They were able to interpret speech in loud spaces and speech patterns better.

Another study discovered that adults over the age of 65, with profound hearing loss, greatly benefited from cochlear implants. After surgery, their speech perception and cognitive function improved drastically. The brain’s cognitive function is its ability to reason, recall, pay attention, and understand language. The better you can hear, the more this function works.

Scientists believe that cochlear implants work well. Both its ability to send electrical signal directly to the auditory nerve, and the brain’s ability to properly interpret these signals improves hearing. This spells good news for those with significant hearing loss. It helps them to communicate better others around them.

A women is have trouble sleeping in her bed.

Women or Men: Who Has More Trouble Sleeping?

A women is having trouble sleeping in her bed.

Who has more trouble sleeping? Men or women?

Many people in America receive an insufficient amount of sleep. Our busy lives do not leave us with much time to rest. Another pressing problem is that people have trouble sleeping. This can be due to sleeping disorders and other personal issues.

In a recent study, researchers have discovered an interesting revelation. It appears that women have more trouble sleeping than men.

Why Women Have Trouble Sleeping

The study in question was performed Dr. Diane B. Boivin and her team at the McGill University. She and her team wanted to know why women were more likely to experience sleep disturbances than men. The answer seems to lie in the body’s clock.

Our body’s internal clock manages how we sleep. Researchers compared 15 men and 11 women, examining how the body clock regulated their sleep and alertness.

Here is what they found: “”For a similar sleep schedule, we find that women’s body clock causes them to fall asleep and wake up earlier than men. The reason is simple: their body clock is shifted to a more easterly time zone,” says the Director of the Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms at the Douglas Institute.

They also found out that a women’s menstrual cycle contributes to how they sleep. It seems to affect the body’s temperature and sleep.

Dr. Boivin explains that, “”Our participants did not exhibit any sleep problems during the study. Just the same, our results are helping us understand, among other things, why women are more likely than men to wake up earlier in the morning and feel tired after a night’s sleep. As well, women are less alert at night than men.”

More research need to be done in order to find out just how much this affects women. While the female participants did not exhibit any sleep problems, they still experienced a lack of sleep. Sleep hygiene is very important as it affects one’s quality of life, and can lead to other disorders.

A doctor is performing test on his patient to see the affect of a new sleep hormone.

Sleep Hormone May Help Against Breast Cancer

A doctor is performing test on his patient to see the effects of a new sleep hormone.

Is a new sleep hormone the answer to breast cancer?

The body is a fascinating thing. It develops ways to protect us and keep us healthy. There so many diseases and disorders affecting us today. Knowing this, scientists look to improve upon the body’s natural defenses. In a recent study, it appears that researchers have found a solution to fighting off breast cancer. A sleep hormone, known as melatonin, seems to be the key.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain during sleep. It helps to regulate the sleep cycles in animals and humans. As we age, we produce less melatonin. Doctors often use melatonin supplements to treat patients with sleep disorders, headaches, cancers, and hearing conditions like tinnitus.

Sleep Hormone Fights Cancer

According to CDC, adults (18-25) need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. However, after interviewing 1,031 adults, analytic company Gallup discovered that at least 40% of Americans receive less than 7 hours of sleep.

A lack of sleep among U.S. citizens is not uncommon. The United States is considered a high-work, high-stress environment and leaves a lot of people sleep-deprived. This fact is important for women, as sleep deprivation can lead to breast cancer.

In a study by the Michigan State University, their research has revealed that melatonin may suppress the growth of breast cancer tumors. The discovered this by growing tumors from stem cells called “mammospheres.” The scientists applied a melatonin treatment, which decreased the number of tumors and their size.

James Trosko, one of the researcher at MSU, states “This work establishes the principal by which cancer stem cell growth may be regulated by natural hormones, and provides an important new technique to screen chemicals for cancer-promoting effects, as well as identify potential new drugs for use in the clinic.”

Hopefully their work leads to more studies involving breast cancer. The CDC states that “About 220,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,000 in men. About 40,000 women and 400 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer.” If an increase in the sleep hormone melatonin helps, then doctors may be able to aid women in need.

A man is sleeping in bed. He is wearing one of many CPAP machines given to patients with sleep apnea.

CPAP Machines Ineffective at Treating Heart Risk

A man is sleeping in bed. He is wearing one of many CPAP machines given to patients with sleep apnea.

Researchers call into question whether or not CPAP machines are effective at fighting heart conditions. 

Continuous positive airway pressure machines, or CPAP machines, are devices designed to help sleep apnea patients. It is effective at combating the symptoms of those with breathing problems or sleep apnea.

Since sleep apnea is a condition that can lead to other disorders, many scientists believe that CPAP treatments would be effective against them. However, a new study suggest that CPAP machines do not help to alleviate heart risk in those with sleep apnea.

CPAP Machines and Heart Risk

For years, scientists have noticed that there is a connection between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease – particularly in men.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, men with severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are 58% more likely to develop congestive heart failure than men without sleep apnea. Some studies in the past have suggest that patients who regularly underwent CPAP treatments were less likely to experience instances of a stroke or heart attack.

A recent study called the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints (SAVE) study, which is managed by the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health of Flinders University of South Australia, determined that CPAP machines is not as effective at reducing heart risk as scientists have believed. This multicenter study tested 2,717 patients from 89 medical centers in seven countries. The patients had moderate to severe OSA, coronary artery or cerebrovascular disease and most of them were older males with a snoring issue.

In order to test how the CPAP machines affected their heart conditions, the researcher separated the patients. One group was required to practice healthy sleeping habits, while the other was required the same plus CPAP therapy. The second group was required to use the machines at least 3 hours per night.

The study lasted 1 week and what researchers found was that patients using CPAP machines did not show any improvements over those who did not. However, the machines are still successful against sleep apnea. More research need to be done to truly determine if CPAP cannot help those with sleep apnea related heart risk.

A male doctor is checking blood pressure of a young woman at a medical office, in order to find out if see has hypertension.

Sleep Apnea-Related Hypertension

A male doctor is checking blood pressure of a young woman at a medical office, in order to find out if she has hypertension.

Hypertension is just one of the many conditions that can arise due to sleep apnea.

Untreated obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) is known to lead to other disorders. One condition it contributes to is hypertension. Hypertension, which is better known as high blood pressure, is a medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. According to a new study performed by scientists at the University of Chicago, there may be a way to manage this condition in those with sleep apnea.

How Does Hypertension Affect the Body?

Hypertension is a troubling condition. According to the CDC, 1 of 3 U.S. adults (70 million people) have high blood pressure. It is also the second leading cause of death in America — because it can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Patients with hypertension will often display the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Altered vision

Some lifestyle choices and health conditions, like sleep apnea, may cause high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the condition can also be a part of one’s family history. This makes it harder to lower or control risk factors.

Sleep Apnea-Related Hypertension

OSA is a common cause of high blood pressure. Scientists have found that a signaling cascade associated with sleep apnea is the cause of this condition. This means that when your body doesn’t get enough blood-oxygen, the carotid bodies send signals to increase breathing and return oxygen to normal. However, blood pressure increases along with oxygen.

By nailing down which signals lead to high blood pressure, the scientists were able to offer a solution. Researchers suggest using a drug to disrupt the enzyme, known as cystathionine-y-lyase, which sends the signal (hydrogen sulfide) to increase oxygen and blood pressure.

According to the authors of the study, “Our results … suggest that inhibiting cystathionine-y-lyase to reduce hydrogen sulfide signaling in the carotid body with more potent inhibitors than L-PAG may be a novel approach to treat hypertension in patients with sleep apnea.”

Young woman is covering her ears due to her tinnitus symptoms.

The Severity of Tinnitus Symptoms Among Adults

Young woman is covering her ears due to her tinnitus symptoms.

More and more adults seem to be experiencing tinnitus symptoms.

Loud noises and environments seem to be doing more damage than expected to people’s hearing. While the lifestyle of teenagers has led to a them experiencing tinnitus symptoms, the same appears to be true for adults. According to a recent study by the University of California, approximately 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. have tinnitus.

Research into Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition. People with tinnitus will often hear noises when there are none. These noises present themselves as a ringing, clicking, hissing or roaring.

The most common causes include ear infections, heart disease, brain tumor, emotional stress, and head injuries. However, tinnitus itself can lead to functional impairments in thought processing, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration.

Researchers at the University of California examined a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Their initial findings revealed that an estimated 3.4 million U.S. adults experienced tinnitus in the past 12 months.

Among those, 27 percent have suffered from symptoms over the past 15 years, while another 36 percent constantly deals with symptoms. Only 7.2 percent felt tinnitus was a big problem. This is a stark difference from the 42 percent who believe the condition didn’t affect their lives.

Researchers believe that work-related noise is the main cause of these symptoms. The problem is that many people do not report experiencing tinnitus to their physician. The CDC estimates that four million people work each day in damaging noise. Even worse, ten million people in the U.S. have hearing loss related to noise.

More studies need to be performed to get a better idea of how tinnitus affects people, as well as how to treat their tinnitus symptoms.  The authors of the study say that “The recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO­HNSF) provide a logical framework for clinicians treating these patients, but the current results indicate that most patients may not be offered management recommendations consistent with the suggested protocol.”

A doctor making notes about a patient with stroke risk.

Sleep Disorders Increase Stroke Risk

A doctor making notes about a patient with stroke risk.

Stroke risk increases as patients ignore their sleep apnea symptoms.

As sleep disorders become more and more prevalent, so does the risk from not treating them. It’s important to have these disorders diagnosed; otherwise it will evolve into something much worse. In a new study by the American Academy of Neurology, their research suggests that sleep disorders, like insomnia and oversleeping, may increase stroke risk.

Patients and Stroke Risk

A stroke is essentially an attack within the brain that happens when blood vessels are blocked or the brain starts to bleed. It can cause weakness, dizziness, slurred speech, vision problem and numbness. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, and on average, one American dies every 4 minutes from a stroke.

Disorders, like insomnia and oversleeping, are common among patients who have suffered from a stroke. However, research shows that they also can act as a telling sign. According to Dirk M. Hermann, MD, of the University Hospital Essen, and study author, “People with sleep disorders may be more likely to have another stroke or other negative outcomes than people without sleep problems, such as having to go to a nursing home after leaving the hospital.”

This study stresses the importance of getting tested. Without testing, patients are left undiagnosed and untreated for their sleeping disorders. The negative outcomes of insomnia include depression, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and irritability. Oversleeping has been known to cause diabetes, obesity, and headaches.

The most common treatment for sleep disorder is a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). This treatment has proven itself success for resolving sleep disorder. The researchers also note that stroke risk in patients with sleep disorder decreased after receiving this treatment.

Stroke risk certainly increases the longer one waits to be treated. The researchers hope that the study will make more patients aware of the issue.

A graphic image of fatty liver disease.

Sleep Apnea and Liver Disease: Obese Adolescents at Risk

A graphic image of fatty liver disease.

As sleep apnea goes untreated, people are at risk for non-alcoholic liver disease.

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea are dangerous if left untreated. New studies suggest that the risks to those who develop the disorder are becoming greater and greater every day. One such study, reported in the “Journal of Hepatology,” suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) contributes a great deal to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in adults and children.

What Is NAFLD?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where fat builds up in the liver. This may be due to a resistance to insulin and a metabolic syndrome. This disorder usually shows up in a high percentage of those with obesity.  This is a liver disease that is not caused by alcohol, hence the name.

It is unhealthy to have too much fat stored in the liver. This causes the liver to swell up, scarring is developed, and can lead to liver cancer or failure. There aren’t that many symptoms with NAFLD. Typically the disorder causes the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Spider-like blood vessels
  • Jaundice
  • Edema
  • Ascites (abdominal swelling)
  • Abdominal discomfort.

How Sleep Apnea Causes Liver Disease

Due to low levels of oxygen during sleep, many patients with sleep apnea develop oxidative stress, which means that their body has trouble detoxifying the harmful effects of free radicals. This can speed up the progression of NAFLD, and eventually lead to a worst disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Lead investigator Shikha Sundaram, MD, MSCI, of the Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado School of Medicine stated, “According to recent reports, pediatric NAFLD patients with OSA/hypoxia have more advanced liver disease and fibrosis, supporting a role for OSA/hypoxia in the development of NASH. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship have not yet been explained.”

The disease affects 30% of the general population in Western countries, and about 9.6% of all children. With the growing issue of obesity, this condition could potentially affect more people every year.

The researcher’s findings showed that patients with severe liver disease also had a serious case of OSA. They hope that correlation between the two conditions will lead to finding a way to treat patients. “We definitely need trials designed to investigate whether CPAP treatment may significantly affect NAFLD progression in this age range. The only randomized controlled trial was of relatively short duration, performed on adult patients with mild OSA/hypoxia and normal baseline transaminases, and apparently did not demonstrate any impact on steatosis, NASH or liver fibrosis,” says Dr. Sundaram.

A doctor looking into the hearing of a young boy. A connection between hearing and autism may be an early indicator of ASD.

The Connection Between Hearing and Autism

A doctor looking into the hearing of a young boy. A connection between hearing and autism may be an early indicator of ASD.

New study reveals that there may be a connection between hearing and autism.

Many children with autism have difficulties interacting and communicating with others. Due to these social, communication and behavioral challenges, it is important that parents are aware of how to properly care for their children – especially when they are young. However, it may be a while before parents discover that their child has autism. New research suggests that a connection between hearing and autism might be able to identify which children are at risk for the disorder.

Hearing and Autism: Inner-Ear Deficiency

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder, in which it is difficult for one to interact socially or communicate with others (verbally and non-verbally). Some even display restrictive or repetitive behavior. The behavioral signs of autism are not the same for every person. Some children with autism are able to interact with people better than other kids can.

Diagnosis is often troublesome. Most parents identify the disorder after their child is two. However, since the disorder’s symptoms are behavioral, some children will develop normally—and then start to show signs after they turn four.

The new research from the University of Rochester Medical Center has discovered an inner-ear deficiency in children with autism. It may be why some children have trouble recognizing speech. The researchers hope that doctors can use their findings to start identifying the deficiency in younger children, in order to inform parents that their child is at risk.

“This study identifies a simple, safe, and non-invasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with Autism,” says Anne Luebuke, Ph.D., co-author of the study, and associate professor of the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience.

The hearing test they used measures optoacoustic emissions by using a miniature microphone and speakers to listen to the inside of the ear. Certain sounds are made inside the ear in response to the sounds heard by the individual. When the inner workings of the ear do not respond to certain sounds, then it is determined that this function is impaired. Of the 17 children who were tested, half where already diagnosed with ASD. Those children had difficulties hearing certain frequencies.

With this new research into hearing and autism, Dr. Luebuke is optimistic, stating “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”

A pregnant woman sleeping on her side. If she has gestational sleep apnea, she is at risk.

Gestational Sleep Apnea: The Risk to Pregnant Women

A pregnant woman sleeping on her side. If she has gestational sleep apnea, she is at risk.

As doctors ignore gestational sleep apnea in pregnant patients, they are at risk for complications.

According to new research, one of every four pregnant women suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Unfortunately, pregnant women with OSA are more likely to be left untreated because it is not seen as a danger to either the mother or child. However, this new research suggest that OSA can be the cause of several symptoms in pregnant women. Now, researchers are recommending that doctors diagnose this condition as gestational sleep apnea.

Doctors Ignore OSA in Pregnant Women

Doctors are ignoring OSA in pregnant women because they attribute difficulty breathing during sleep, as well as daytime fatigue, to their pregnancy. Doctors are usually unwilling to refer pregnant patients to an ENT specialist, believing that symptoms will subside after their child is born. Some researchers believe that this thinking is a misstep in helping pregnant women with gestational sleep apnea.

Prof. Yehuda Ginosar, director of the Mother and Child Anesthesia Unit at the Hebrew University, and co-author of the study, states that “Currently there is a lack of uniform criteria to diagnose, treat and classify OSA in the pregnant population, which in turn complicates efforts to determine the risk factors for, and complications of, gestational sleep apnea.”

The Risk of Gestational Sleep Apnea

Without proper diagnosis and treatment of Gestational Sleep Apnea, pregnant women are left at risk. Not only do they suffer from both difficulty breathing during sleep and daytime fatigue, but the disorder is known to cause several complications in their condition, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and heart disease.

When non-pregnant adults are diagnosed with OSA, they are treated with continuous positive airway pressure (PAP machine) to relieve their symptoms. Researchers stress the importance of diagnosing pregnant women so that they might receive the same treatment. Without proper action, women and their babies are at risk.

Dr. Suzanne Karan, co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of the Anesthesiology Respiratory Physiology Laboratory at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, sends out a call to action for doctors, stating, “The time has come for our profession to wake up to the diagnosis of Gestational Sleep Apnea. This will allow us to research obstructive sleep apnea in pregnant women more effectively, and to develop and implement more effective treatments.”

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