Archive for April, 2017

A patient fitting a device on his ear after a cochlear implantation.

New Method for Cochlear Implantation Developed

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A patient fitting a device on his ear after a cochlear implantation.

Scientists take a step into the future of cochlear implantation.

Sometimes, hearing loss occurs because of damage to the tiny hair cells within the inner ear. Using a cochlear implant device allows deaf patients to bypass the effects of inner ear damage, giving them the ability to hear some form of sound. A cochlear implantation requires drilling a hole behind the ear, through the skull bone, and to the inner ear. Researchers may have found another way to perform this procedure.

Using Robotics for Cochlear Implantation

During a cochlear implantation, the hole is drilled to allow the device access to the inner ear. To improve the drilling procedure, scientists at the University of Bern turned to robotics. They developed a high-precision surgical robot to create the entryway for the cochlear device. Their hope is that it provides better hearing outcomes.

The surgical robot would make the hole about 2.5mm in diameter. In order to perform a task of such magnitude, the robot has the do the surgery by itself and without any hands-on interaction or visual from a surgeon. This obviously presents concerns. Surgeons need to be able to track the drill’s progress to make sure in is on track and just in case there is an error.

The researchers built the robot with interlocking safety components. This allows the drill to avoid damaging key areas like the nerves and inner ears.

Prof Weber of the University of Bern, explains: “The robot relies on a number of sensors which are a high-accuracy, optical tracking system, a sensor for resistance that can “feel” the texture of the bone while drilling, and a radar-like nerve stimulation probe that sends small electric pulses into the bone from which the robot can compute whether or not it is on the preplanned track.”

This may be the next major development in cochlear implantation. It has proven effective for one patient and hopefully, it will prove helpful for future patients.

A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Insomnia Treatment: Tricking the Mind

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A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Scientists test both a real and fake insomnia treatment.

Insomnia is not only a serious condition, it’s practically unbearable. Over time, a lack of sleep will affect the mind and body, causing emotional and physical disorders. For example, the CDC list diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression as chronic diseases connected to poor sleep. Scientists may have found an insomnia treatment that works, and it may not be a treatment at all.

Testing Real and Fake Insomnia Treatment

Neurofeedback is an exercise with positive results that trains the brain. During this treatment, the brain’s activity is monitored using electrodes. Researchers are trying to find out if tricking the brain with a fake or placebo neurofeedback treatment will produce positive results.

In a relatively small study, featuring 30 patients with insomnia, researchers tested both forms of neurofeedback. All patients completed 12 sessions of neurofeedback and 12 sessions of placebo neurofeedback treatment over the course of four weeks. During eight nights in a sleep laboratory, the patient’s sleep-wake cycle was monitored.

The Results

Both forms of neurofeedback proved to be an effective insomnia treatment. Scientists found no difference between the two. However, there is one concern among the researchers. They are unsure whether or not patients are reacting to the treatment or their care at the hands of experimenters. This is because most of the participants felt they were treated well and with compassion during their nights in the sleep laboratory.

“Given our results,” said lead author Manuel Schabus, “one has to question how much of published neurofeedback effects are due to simple expectations on the side of the participants or, in other words, unspecific placebo effects.”

These calls into question what is really affecting how patients sleep. Is a little kindness all it takes or did the neurofeedback truly have an effect? In the end, more studies on insomnia need to be performed to find out what works best.

A hearing aid on a white background.

The Benefits of a Hearing Aid

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A hearing aid on a white background.

How well does a hearing aid work?

It’s amazing how technological advancements have made life better for so many people, especially in the world of medicine. Scientists often research this type of technology to see how well they work. With this research, they access the technology’s effectiveness and make improvements. Recently, researchers looked into the hearing aid, hoping to find out if it had lasting effects.

The Purpose of a Hearing Aid

It is common for older adults to lose their hearing. That is why hearing aids were created. They are a solution to a problem that affects plenty of adults. Sounds become louder, speech skills increase, and cognitive understanding improves.

Many who need this hearing technology do not use it. In fact, less than 30 percent of adults over 70 years old use hearing aids. If you expand the age range from 20 to 69, only 16 percent of people who need hearing aids use them.

Testing Different Hearing Aids

The objective of the research was to prove that hearing aids do provide a benefit, no matter what kind. There are generally two types of hearing aids that people buy. The first is customized and created after a consultation with a doctor. The other is cheaper, pre-programmed hearing aid.

Scientists gathered 154 adults, ages 55-79, with hearing loss. They separated them into three groups:

  • Customized group
  • Pre-programmed group
  • Placebo group

People in the placebo group were given aids that provided no hearing benefits. After testing, they found that both the customized and pre-programmed hearing aids were effective. However, people in the customized group were more likely to buy their hearing aids.

Overall, people liked the quality of the customized hearing aid better. When offered the customized hearing aid, the pre-programmed and placebo group were more impressed by its quality. Hopefully, patients with hearing loss will see that hearing aids help, no matter what kind.

A couple camping in the park to resolve their sleep issues.

Scientists Suggest Camping for Sleep Issues

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A couple camping in the park to resolve their sleep issues.

A weekend camping can help with your sleep issues.

Some people just have a hard time getting up in the morning. It happens often when you stay up or work late nights. This can be annoying, especially when you want to get your day started early. We use alarms and other tools to force ourselves awake but sometimes they are not enough. Scientists may have found a solution to these sleep issues – camping.

The Drawback of Sleeping Late

Going to sleep late during the night can throw off your natural circadian rhythms. These rhythms determine our sleeping patterns – when we sleep and when to wake up. Any disruption in this internal clock makes it harder to sleep and wake up. Sometimes, it can even cause insomnia.

Another negative aspect of going to bed past a certain time is that you lose sleep. The later you sleep, the less rest you receive before you have to wake up and do your daily responsibilities. Less rest means a weakened immune system, a lack of concentration, and other disadvantages.

What Scientists Say About Camping and Sleep Issues

“Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” says Kenneth Wright at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wright and his team discovered that the lack of natural light was the cause of these sleep issues. Electrical light and other devices infer with our body’s sleep cycle. By sending groups of people camping in warm and cold environments, the light exposure from the sun helps them wake up almost two hours earlier.

Melatonin increases when the body is exposed to the sun. That increase causes the body to react and wake up early. The camping experience essentially reset their circadian rhythms back to normal.

“Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring in more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that would be able to change across the day and night to enhance performance, health, and well-being,” says Wright.

If you ever feel like your sleeping patterns are off, then a nice, relaxing weekend in the woods might be what you need.

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