Ear Neck Throat

Portrait of a mature man, possibly with single-sided deafness, giving his ear against a white background

Getting to Know Single-Sided Deafness

Portrait of a mature man, possibly with single-sided deafness, giving his ear against a white background

One of the most serious issues presented by single-sided deafness is the loss of spatial hearing.

Single-sided deafness, or SSD, is a condition in which a person has good hearing in one ear, and non-functional hearing in the other ear. By ‘non-functional hearing’, it is meant that even with the help of some system of sound amplification, the bad ear cannot be made functional again. The most common reason for this is that a person with SSD has sustained damage to the inner ear, so amplification has no effect whatsoever on hearing ability in that ear.

Problems Presented by SSD

One of the most serious issues presented by single-sided deafness is the loss of spatial hearing. Spatial hearing allows a person to identify sounds both distant and nearby, in addition to all those that occur within 360° of the head area. Because our two-tiered auditory system is oriented to evaluate very specific information that can localize and pinpoint sounds, there is a big loss sustained when one ear is completely subtracted from that model.

It creates some difficulties for the brain, in terms of evaluating the information it receives and trying to assess what kind of information is missing. When the non-functional ear is in the acoustic shadow of the functional ear on the other side of the head, there can be significant difficulty with interpreting speech and other sounds, versus normal background noises.

This is especially true when speech or other distinctive sounds reach the non-functional ear first, and are not really ‘heard’ until the sound signal travels around to the other side of the head, to be received by the good ear. The net effects of this kind of sound reception are: a serious degradation in listening quality, difficulty with the interpretation of sounds and speech, and in a broader context, lowering of a person’s quality of life.

Another of the difficulties with single-sided deafness, alluded to above, is the condition known as ‘head shadow’ effect. What is meant by head shadow effect is a situation where sounds originating on the side of the head where the non-functioning ear is, are actually obstructed by the head itself in traveling to the other side of the head where the good ear is.

The main problem with this is that some kinds of sounds become very difficult to hear with the good ear. Low-frequency sounds are mostly unaffected in this scenario, because they have a long wavelength and they can move around the head more readily to the good ear. High-frequency sounds on the other hand, are characterized by much shorter wavelengths, and many of these are typically reflected by the head, and become altered before they reach the good ear.

Since consonant sounds occur largely in the high-frequency wavelengths, this can have a big impact on communication, because it is much more difficult to differentiate those sounds from background noises. Therefore, the biggest impact of this head shadow effect is on communication, and it causes a person with SSD to miss a great deal of what may have been said by someone, even if they’re standing close by.

Causes of SSD

One of the more common causes of single-sided deafness occurs is when surgery is necessary to remove a tumor growing in the ear. This kind of surgical removal sometimes causes such damage to the auditory nerve that a patient loses most or all hearing in that ear. If such tumors are not removed, they will continue to grow slowly, and will eventually cause damage to the ear anyway, including possible loss of hearing. However, surgical treatment can end up being just as harmful, if the auditory nerve becomes damaged.

A secondary cause of SSD is known as sudden idiopathic hearing loss, which is generally attributable to some kind of viral infection. In this scenario, a virus infects the cochlea, which eventually leads to swelling and permanent damage to the delicate structure of the cochlea. It happens fairly frequently that the ear cannot recover from this kind of damage, and the person is left with no hearing in that ear.

A third cause for SSD stems from some kind of blunt trauma to the head. In such cases, there can be a transverse fracture of the critical temporal bone, which has the effect of rendering the cochlea non-functional from that point forward. It is also possible for people to be born with hearing loss in one ear, while having perfectly good hearing in the other ear.

Solutions for SSD

One of the most effective solutions for SSD is known as a Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) configuration, in which a microphone is placed in the non-functioning ear, and transmits received sound signals over to a receptor in the good ear. The first of these configurations relied on a tiny wiring system for the transmission of sound between ears, but this has now been improved and refined with a wireless system that makes the whole arrangement less bulky and more effective.

There are now also two additional high-tech solutions which build upon the idea that sound received on the non-functioning side is somehow transported to the good side so that relatively normal hearing is possible. These two processes are known as bone conduction solutions and bone anchored solutions.

In the first, sound is actually transmitted through the bone of the skull to the other side of the head, and in the second, sound is transmitted by a subcutaneous implant which transmits sound through the skin to the good ear. As you might expect, these solutions can be relatively costly, but they can also be a very effective means of restoring normal hearing to someone who has completely lost hearing in one ear.

Young woman with an ear infection, such as cholesteatoma, touching her painful ear.

Cholesteatoma: What It Is and What You Need to Know

Young woman with an ear infection, such as cholesteatoma, touching her painful ear.

Cholesteatoma is a non-cancerous growth in the middle ear.

With a name that confuses many, cholesteatoma is a delicate and troublesome problem within the ear. Describing an abnormal skin growth behind the eardrum, the middle ear, cholesteatoma is normally caused by multiple infections. However, there are other causes to note including a dysfunction in the eustachian tube.

What is the Eustachian Tube?

Running to the middle of the ear from the back of the nose, this tube is essential for our hearing. Since it allows air to reach the ear, ear pressure is equalized efficiently and our hearing works as expected. Sadly, an issue can occur with a simple cold along with allergies, sinus infections, and chronic ear infections.

With a failure in the eustachian tube, the middle ear can experience a partial vacuum and, in turn, the eardrum, or certain sections of the eardrum, is pulled out of position. As you can see, each step of the process causes another problem and it ends with a growth or cyst in the middle ear.

When left untreated, willingly or unknowingly, the size of the cholesteatoma can change while causing severe damage to the delicate bones located in the middle ear. If left for too long, hearing loss is experienced and surgery becomes one of just a few select options. Fortunately, there aren’t any serious side effects when the issue is treated which means that permanent hearing loss and muscle paralysis in the face are both unlikely. This being said, there has been cases of all three when the cholesteatoma is allowed to keep growing.

Causes of Cholesteatoma

As we’ve seen, the main causes are problems with the eustachian tube and chronic infections but there are also small numbers of people who are born with a cholesteatoma. Ultimately, this is seen as a birth defect and should be picked up on soon after birth. If children experience numerous ear infections, cholesteatoma can also become a problem at a young age.

Symptoms of Cholesteatoma

With any health issue such as this, the key information comes in knowing the symptoms so it can be recognized early. With cholesteatoma, many are actually drawn to a foul odor before anything else and this is where the ear drains fluids. After this, you might feel building pressure or a sense of fullness in the ear where the sac enlarges over time.

As with ear infections themselves, cholesteatoma will cause discomfort whether it comes through an ache in the ear, a difficulty to fall asleep at night, or a slight loss of hearing. Finally, there may be muscle weakness on the side of the cyst in addition to dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, we advise you to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Even if it turns out to be a simple ear infection, this will still need treatment.

Treating Cholesteatoma

As you visit your doctor, they’ll examine the inside of the ear because the signs of a cyst can often be seen early whether it’s a congregation of blood vessels or excess skin cells. If they don’t find anything but are still a little worried, they may ask for you to attend a CT scan which will show the cyst or whatever it may be causing your discomfort.

As with any other cyst, a cholesteatoma is something that needs surgery for removal. Unfortunately, cysts don’t just go away on their own; in fact, they do the opposite and grow. While you’re waiting for surgery, your doctor might suggest ear drops, antibiotics, careful cleaning, and other forms of light therapy.

During surgery, most cases are completed under a general anesthesia with the main aim of removing the cyst. If the cyst is removed, this is great news but it might not be the end of the problem depending on how serious the issue was and the state of your ear now. Typically, a second surgery will be planned at the very least to check the cyst has gone. However, you may also require a reconstruction of the damaged bones in the middle ear; this will improve your hearing and reverse other symptoms experienced. Of course, this will be judged on a case-by-case basis as not all patients would benefit from reconstruction if the damage is too severe.

In terms of the logistics, you’ll be an outpatient and a certain percentage will stay in the facility overnight as a precaution. If the cholesteatoma was extremely damaging, you might be required to stay in hospital for a few days with a course of antibiotics. On the whole, you can expect to need one or two weeks away from work. In the months ahead, check-ups and evaluations will ensure the problem has gone for good.


Although we can’t provide any prevention tips for congenital cholesteatomas, we do advise visiting the doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms we’ve listed. Whether it’s yourself or your child, quick action is the best way to remove the problem and ensure the middle ear bones aren’t damaged. Despite cholesteatoma being a serious ear condition, it is treatable with the right steps.

A little girl with herpangina getting her throat examined by an ENT doctor.

Herpangina: What You Need to Know


As the known term for a blister-like ulcer within the mouth, herpangina occurs typically in childhood. Unfortunately, being an infection, herpangina can cause other health issues – we’re here to discuss what you need to know.

What is Herpangina?

In the past, the infection has been compared to hand-foot-mouth disease since they’re both viral infections found mostly in children. As a group of viruses known to affect the gastrointestinal tract, enteroviruses are to blame for herpangina. The immune system will typically jump into action as soon as it detects an enterovirus. Since young children and infants aren’t always equipped with the right antibodies, they’re more susceptible to these viruses.

When it comes to herpangina, the main issue is its contagiousness. After spotting or hearing of an ulcer in the roof of the mouth or back of the throat, you should look to treat the symptoms and have the infection cleared as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can spread around a nursery or classroom.

Herpangina Risks

Although herpangina can affect anyone of any age, those around the age of 5 to 10 years experience it most frequently. Since it’s highly-contagious, breeding grounds can form in classrooms, camps, and other locations where children regularly congregate. In the U.S., researchers have found the problem to be most common in fall and summer.

Symptoms of Herpangina

Both for yourself and your children, some health conditions can be hard to diagnose since the symptoms are very similar to other health issues. Luckily, the signs of herpangina can be spotted and tested more easily. For example, the primary symptoms one might experience include swollen lymph glands, sudden onset of fever, neck pain, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, loss of appetite, and a headache.

For smaller children, there may be an issue with verbal communication of symptoms, but indicators include excessive drooling or vomiting. Of course, ulcers may also be visible on the roof of the mouth or towards the back of the throat. In appearance, specialists suggest a gray color with a red border for ulcers; in the majority of cases, they clear within a week.

A little girl with herpangina is given a diagnosis at the doctor's office.

Herpangina is easier to diagnose in older children who have learned how to speak and communicate their symptoms. However, in younger kids, look out for vomiting and excessive drooling.

Should I Contact a Doctor?

For many, especially with worried parents, this is the key question because you want to help your child feel better but you don’t want to exaggerate what may be a small issue. Therefore, we advise contacting the doctor if a fever measures above 106 degrees (or stays for longer than usual), if there are signs of dehydration, and if mouth sores remain for longer than five days.

Herpangina Treatment

After paying a visit to your doctor, they can typically diagnose the issue with ease since the ulcers are unique in their appearance. With a simple physical examination of yourself or your child, they can see the problem while also assessing all symptoms and your medical history. With herpangina, specialized diagnostic tests aren’t required.

Regarding treatment, the goal is to reduce the symptoms while also keeping them under control in the days ahead. Depending on your age and a number of other factors – including your medical history and symptoms – doctor’s can recommend different types of treatment. A course of antibiotics won’t be especially useful since herpangina is a viral infection.

With this in mind, the first suggestion would be acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It’s crucial that the patient doesn’t take aspirin since herpangina has been linked to the potentially life-threatening Reyes disease that is associated with a severe aspirin allergy.

Elsewhere, topical anesthetics could be used to relieve any mouth pain (and sore throat), including lidocaine. Regardless of the treatment, the doctor will suggest an increased intake of liquids with a focus on water and milk; hot drinks and citrus-based beverages will worsen the symptoms. Strangely enough, many sufferers have found popsicles to ease throat issues so this could also be advised.

Preventative Measures

Finally, you might be wondering whether you can avoid this disease altogether. First and foremost, you can take preventative measure by practicing good hygiene habits. For example, all the necessary rules apply such as covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, washing hands after using the toilet, and washing hands before meals. If you teach your children the basic hygiene rules, you’ll decrease the likelihood of them suffering from herpangina too.

If your child currently has herpangina, remember these rules when helping them to recover. Throughout the day, wash your hands and pay particular attention before and after changing diapers or dealing with mucus. Furthermore, try to keep areas of high activity clean for your child including toys, surfaces, and their beds. To avoid becoming the enemy of all other parents, we also advise keeping your child from school or day-care while recovering too. If you follow these tips, you or your child will be back to full health in no time!

A woman in an airplane suffers from hyperacusis, plugs her ears.

Hyperacusis: Does Pink Noise Help?


If you’ve never heard of the term ‘hyperacusis,’ it refers to a condition in which a person’s normal tolerance to sounds in their everyday environment is severely diminished. With hyperacusis, the sound of a car braking at a traffic light can sound like a horrible screech, and a group of people applauding a speaker can sound like a huge thunderclap in a storm. In short, it’s as though someone was toying with the volume control of Life, and left it stuck on the highest setting – just about everything sounds extremely loud.

On the flip side, someone who has hyperacusis usually has lost most of the dynamic range generally associated with hearing, which means there isn’t much difference in the loudness of various sounds. For example, an actual explosion might sound very much like a book dropping off the edge of a table.

Most hyperacusis patients have a sensation of inner ear pain or a feeling of pressure in the ears which is similar to what you might feel when making a rapid descent in a commercial jetliner. On an airplane, this feeling can be easily overcome by yawning or chewing gum, but a hyperacusis patient feels this ear pressure all the time. This constant discomfort can have an enormous impact on a person’s life, affecting their job as well as their home life and relationships.

For someone with hyperacusis, operating a lawn mower, listening to the radio in the car, or running a vacuum cleaner at home may not be possible. This condition has less to do with volume, and more to do with particular sound frequencies, which can make attempts to muffle out noise entirely futile as well.

What can be done to help people who have hyperacusis?

Noise Has Color

The pink spectrum of noise is the one which most closely matches the broad range of sounds which we hear in our normal environment. That’s why treatment for patients with hyperacusis generally involves building up a tolerance to pink noise, rather than white noise, which includes higher frequencies. The higher frequencies are the ones most troubling for hyperacusis patients, so trying to build a tolerance to white noise is not nearly as effective an approach.

The goal of any program of sound therapy is to slowly and incrementally build up a tolerance to noise, but this can be a very frustrating and difficult experience for someone with hyperacusis. Many patients find that they just don’t have the patience to undergo this kind of slow therapy, and search for something that will produce faster, less uncomfortable results. If nothing helps, a patient may have few options other than to wear earplugs a majority of the time during waking hours.

A man with hyperacusis sits with headphones on, listening to pink noise at the doctor's office.

It’s important to find the right kind of sound therapy for your hyperacusis, and many patients have found that pink noise has helped them.

How Sound Therapy Works

The whole idea of sound therapy is to get a person re-familiarized and tolerant of the noises which populate our day-to-day world. Sounds are delivered to the ears by one of the several methods, like listening to CDs with recorded everyday sounds. But this can be an inconvenient kind of session for the hyperacusis patient because therapy sessions should last at least two hours per day, and if you’re stuck with one CD for that long, it can get to be uncomfortable and restrictive.

An alternative method of sound delivery calls for custom-fitted sound generators made for your head and ears and having pre-recorded pink noise sounds played for the duration of your therapy sessions. With a sound generator, you’d be free to walk around and do other things, but it can be quite expensive. Whereas a pink noise CD costs less than $100, a sound generator delivering the same pink noise sounds might cost several thousand dollars.

Counseling: A Critical Part of Hyperacusis Therapy

Whichever kind of sound delivery system you choose, there is another essential part of sound therapy: counseling. Having a trained counselor or advisor can make all the difference sometimes, which can ease the difficulties and frustrations that come with sound therapy.

To begin, any sound therapy program requires a high degree of self-motivation from the participant, since no amount of cajoling will persuade a patient to undergo the uncomfortable sessions required. There will be days when the patient wants to shorten or skip the course, or even quit the process altogether. Those are times when a skillful counselor can serve as a cheerleader, and convince the patient to keep eyes on the prize and continue to forge ahead.

It is quite normal for hyperacusis patients to feel that the therapy is hurting them instead of helping since pink noise can be torturous to their hyper-sensitive ears. At times, it takes some skilled counseling to assure a patient that the process is doing them some good, and not harming their ears at all.

It is often a long and uncomfortable process getting re-acquainted with the sounds of our everyday world, but for the patient who sticks with it, it is possible to lessen and maybe even cure the adverse effects of hyperacusis.

A dictionary highlights the word ADHD, and recent research shows a definite link between ADHD and sleep disorders.

The Link Between ADHD and Sleep Disorders


As technology has evolved over the years, many different industries have benefited. As prime examples, science and medicine have perhaps been at the forefront of the transition into the digital world. Not only have we seen more technology used in hospitals and saving lives, but there has also been a lot of work behind-the-scenes in laboratories. With this in mind, it has opened up a brand-new world allowing us to learn how to prevent illnesses, how to treat diseases, and how medical conditions can affect one another. Today, we’re focusing on the latter and the relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Often spotted and diagnosed during childhood, ADHD causes hyperactivity and certain disruptive behaviors in the patient which can have a direct impact on academic performance, work, and other areas of life. Due to uncontrollable impulses and urges, ADHD patients find it hard to stay in control, and this leads to a loss of concentration and focus. Every year, millions of children are affected, and some cases will continue into adulthood. Interestingly, the issue affects boys significantly more than girls; as both age though, it seems to level out, and the rates in adults are relatively equal.

Despite the many advancements in technology, the causes of ADHD outside of neuro-chemical imbalances, are largely unknown even today. According to experts, the most likely cause is a combination of environmental factors and genetics. In addition to this, there isn’t a definite cure which makes the condition somewhat of a mystery for the most part. That being said, many have developed ‘treatments’ that lessen the effects and make the condition more bearable.

Symptoms of ADHD

Nowadays, even children at the age of two years can be evaluated for ADHD. Generally speaking, the symptoms will become more manageable as time goes on, but this doesn’t help childhood because the symptoms can be destructive. For example, they include;

  • Frequent daydreaming
  • Forgetting information
  • Lack of organization
  • Difficulty in staying focused/concentrating on a task
  • Difficulty in following even simple instructions
  • Excessive talking
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Interrupting the conversations of others
  • Frequent impatience

In addition to having an impact on school and work life, people living with ADHD can also struggle to maintain relationships while also becoming more susceptible to ill mental health including depression, anxiety, and, as you may have guessed from the title, sleep disorders.

A young man is experiencing symptoms of both ADHD and sleep disorders, which sometimes coincide. He is massaging his temples, frustrated.

Sleep issues associated with ADHD, such as restlessless, insomnia, and irregular sleep schedules, can often develop into full-fledge sleep disorders. These correlated symptoms solidify the link between ADHD and sleep disorders.

Connection Between ADHD and Sleep Disorders

For those who have ADHD, you’ll know that even thinking about going to sleep can cause anxiety. With nights disturbed by physical restlessness as well as constant mental activity, sleep can be a huge issue. However, the link between sleep disorders and ADHD was overlooked for a long time. For many years, the American Psychiatric Association suggested that all ADHD symptoms are made clear within the first seven years of life. Considering sleeping disorders commonly start at 12 years of age, the connection was never made.

As the issue has become more prevalent, many studies have taken place and created the link, but the link between ADHD and sleep disorders hasn’t been made clear in all the literature currently available. That being said, patients are in no doubt their condition causes sleep disturbances, and four tend to stand out more than others.

Restless Sleep

Even after falling asleep, the sleep can be restless and not what you would consider ‘quality’ of any kind. Waking up at the quietest noise and tossing/turning all night, bed partners often choose to sleep elsewhere on bad nights.

Initiation Insomnia

With this issue, patients simply can’t ‘switch off’ at night, and this is said to affect up to 75% of all people with ADHD. With some, they even say they feel nocturnal because they receive a sudden burst of energy when the sun disappears (despite feeling tired for most of the day). There is statistical evidence that there is a connection between ADHD and sleep disorders: before puberty, up to 15% of children who have ADHD have sleeping problems – twice the amount compared to children with no ADHD.

Intrusive Sleep

Thirdly, some sufferers have reported drowsiness as soon as they lose interest in a task. While active and interested, they feel ready to partake in whatever it is that has their attention. As soon as the interest has disappeared, this is where the trouble commences.

Difficulty Waking

According to some practices, up to 80% of people living with ADHD can have trouble waking up in the morning. Unfortunately, many awake every so often until around 4 a.m. before then struggling to wake up when the alarm goes just a couple of hours later.


Although it still hasn’t been recognized by the appropriate bodies, sufferers and doctors alike know the relationship that now exists between ADHD and sleep disorders, and it’s one that requires treatment if any improvement is to be made.

Man is sitting at desk, sneezing due to indoor allergens.

Reducing Indoor Allergens


For the most part, there’s not much we can do to control the allergens and wider environment outside. However, we can control what’s inside our home and today we have some simple yet effective tips for reducing indoor allergens both now and long into the future.

Common Indoor Allergens

First and foremost, we should note that the most common allergens you might experience in your home include pet dander, food, cockroaches, mold, dust, and dust mite droppings. For the people inside your home, this can lead to allergic reactions, eczema flare-ups, and asthma spells. Therefore, prevention will always be better than the cure and you should be looking to remove these indoor allergens before doing anything else.

At first, this might seem like mission impossible because your home is a large place to cover all in one sitting. For this reason, today we’re concentrating on the most common hiding places for indoor allergens. By targeting the allergens at their source, you can keep issues to a minimum and breathe freely in your own home.

Clean Air

As a starting point, you should be aiming for the cleanest possible air and this comes from some form of indoor air cleaner such as a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) air purifier. By recycling the air and capturing allergen particles, your home can be free from dust mite debris and pet dander for some time to come.

While on the note of clean air, we also recommend moving your spring cleaning. If you leave the cleaning until later in the season, allergens will make their way into the home as soon as you open the windows to let your house breathe. For example, pollen is a big one in spring and an issue that will cause havoc for many.

A man changes the filter inside his air purifier, which helps reduce indoor allergens.

Purchasing a HEPA air purifier and changing the filter frequently can help reduce airborne indoor allergens and help you breathe easier.


With the air as clean as possible, the next area to target should be your bedroom because this should be your haven from the world. As well as cleaning your bedsheets regularly, you should also keep pets away from your bedroom and invest in dust-proof pillows and mattress. Since dust mites feed on the dead skin cells found within the bed sheets, cleaning them in hot water is important to kill them off and ensure your sheets are free from dust mites at all times.


If you have a high pile or shaggy carpet, this is the perfect breeding ground for dust mites so a weekly vacuum is essential. If you have pets, make this more frequent and this will keep your carpet as clean as possible. Every 12 to 18 months, we also recommend a professional steam as this will pull all deep-rooted stains and dust. Since the flooring covers the whole house, this is important for removing allergens and staying healthy in your home.


Often, we tend to build piles of what can only be described as ‘stuff’ around the home. Whether it’s magazines, paper, or clothing, they end up being forgotten and it creates a safe home for cockroaches. Over time, they’ll shed body parts, leave feces, and drop saliva all over the place and this will be awful for those with allergies and asthma.


While on the topic of cockroaches, you’ll need to keep an eye on your appliances to ensure all food debris is cleaned every so often. In your oven, microwave, toaster, and other appliances, the best way to remove the threat of cockroaches is to keep their food source to a minimum.


Sure, you wash all bedding once it gets pulled from your bed but how long does it stay in the linen closet after being washed? If you have three or four sets of linen on rotation, dust mites will build by the time you come to use the set and this can be dangerous. If you have sets that don’t even make their way out of the closet, they’ll be a hive of activity for dust mites which immediately taints everything else nearby. To prevent this, we highly recommend cleaning all linen with hot water even if (or especially if) it hasn’t been used for a while.


Finally, we recommend investing in a small humidity monitor because mold and mildew thrive in humid areas. If you can keep an eye on the most humid areas within the home, you should be able to prevent the growth of mold thus also preventing issues for those with allergies and asthma. Let’s not forget, mold can affect the respiratory system of even healthy people so it’s always best to keep your home free from the problem!

An illustration of the ear and its anatomy, including the inner ear.

Growing the Inner Ear: Healing the Hearing Impaired?

An illustration of the ear and its anatomy, including the inner ear.

The solution to inner ear issues may be near.

As adults grow older, they become more likely to develop hearing and balance disorders. Hearing loss can result from a multitude of factors, including bacterial and viral infections, environmental and work-related noise exposure, genetics, medication toxicity and trauma.

Some of these conditions affect the cochlea, which is the inner ear. As the innermost part of the vertebrate ear, this section of the body is responsible for sound detection and balance. If this part of the body is damaged, your ability to hear suffers greatly.

New research at the Indiana University School of Medicine has developed a way to grow inner ear tissue from human stem cells. The researchers’ findings may lead to better methods of treating hearing loss. Find out how they were able to achieve this success and what it means for the those with hearing impairments.

Research Into the Inner Ear

“The inner ear is only one of few organs with which biopsy is not performed and because of this, human inner ear tissues are scarce for research purposes,” said Eri Hashino, Ph.D., Ruth C. Holton Professor of Otolaryngology at IU School of Medicine. “Dish-grown human inner ear tissues offer unprecedented opportunities to develop and test new therapies for various inner ear disorders.”

In the past, researchers have had difficulties growing inner ear tissue. Traditionally, scientists cultivate human stem cells in a flat layer on a culture dish. However, this method proved unsuccessful in producing viable tissue. Research leads, Karl R. Koehler and Dr. Hashino, instead tested a different culturing technique called three-dimensional culture.

The three-dimensional culture is a technique that grows stem cells in a floating ball-shaped aggregate. This method allows the cells to grow more naturally. They incubate in an environment similar to the body. Through expert guidance, the scientists were able to create structures called “organoids.” These structures contain sensory and supporting cells akin to the ones in the inner ear.

What Does This Research Mean for the Future?

“This is essentially a recipe for how to make human inner ears from stem cells,” said Dr. Koehler, lead author of the study and whose research lab works on modeling human development. “After tweaking our recipe for about a year, we were shocked to discover that we could make multiple inner ear organoids in each pea-sized cell aggregate.”

“We also found neurons, like those that transmit signals from the ear to the brain, forming connections with sensory cells,” Dr. Koehler said. “This is an exciting feature of these organoids because both cell types are critical for proper hearing and balance.”

Dr. Hashino and his colleagues hope to use this new knowledge to study diseases and disorders that affect hearing. In addition to learning more about the ear, the scientists hope to develop new therapies and drugs.

“We hope to discover new drugs capable of helping regenerate the sound – sending hair cells in the inner ear of those who have severe hearing problems,” Dr. Hashino said. If successful, then this is another step towards healing people with hearing impairments.

An image of young psychiatrist comforting her sad patient, who has schizophrenia.

Sleep and Schizophrenia

An image of young psychiatrist comforting her sad patient, who has schizophrenia.

Researchers discover interesting results concerning sleep and schizophrenia.

A lack of sleep has a drastic effect on the body. It can cause several debilitating conditions. In order to prepare for the diseases that develop from sleep deprivation, scientists are constantly studying their connection to sleep. A recent study looks into the link between sleep and schizophrenia.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. This disorder causes severe mental health issues, including hearing voices, abnormal social behavior, confusion, and an inability to determine what is real. Unfortunately, this can lead to other mental conditions, making life harder for an individual.

BIDMC’s Study

“One of the most exciting advances in sleep research over the last decade has been the growing understanding of sleep’s causal relationship to psychiatric disorders,” said senior author Robert Stickgold, MD, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at BIDMC. “Here, we reviewed the evidence that reduced sleep spindle activity predates the onset of schizophrenia and contributes to its cognitive deficits and other symptoms.”

Sleep spindles are burst of brain activity, which helps people conserve memory during sleep. Scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center decided to research its connection to the troubling mental disorder. Surprisingly, the mental disorder might not be the cause of sleep disturbances. Instead, researchers found the opposite. Sleep conditions are most likely at fault, causing schizophrenia.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that sleep not only controls memory and emotional processing in all of us, but that deficits in sleep probably contribute to a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and depression,” Stickgold said. “Now we can begin tracing it all the way from the genes to the disorders themselves.”

Schizophrenia can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Researchers believe that one gene variant, which affects a calcium channel located near the area of the brain that generates sleep spindles, is responsible for the defect. If scientists can get this gene working correctly, then they may find a feasible treatment option.

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 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.”

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