Ear Neck Throat
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.
“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.
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.”
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 new study by the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Center reveals some interesting details about an anticancer drug. Researchers discovered that the drug has restored hearing for some patients suffering from Neurofibromatosis Type II. This is positive news for those dealing with both hearing loss and cancer.
Neurofibromatosis Type II
Neurofibromatosis Type II (NF2) is a rare disorder that affects an estimated one in 25,000 people. This illness causes vestibular schwannomas (slow-growing tumors) to form on the eighth cranial nerves. These cranial nerves contain the acoustic and vestibular branches. The acoustic is responsible for hearing, while the vestibular regulates the body’s equilibrium, or balance.
As the tumors grow, they press against the brain stem and interrupt the function of these branches. Most patients suffering from neurofibromatosis begin to develop hearing loss, and the disease eventually leads to deafness.
Bevacizumab: The Anticancer Drug
The vestibular schwannomas that are responsible for hearing loss produce high levels of proteins called VEGF. These proteins cause blood vessel to grow, which feeds tumors.
For the study, researchers treated 14 patients with both NF2 and progressive hearing loss, using an anticancer drug called Bevacizumab. The drug reduces the VEGF levels in certain cancers. The patients received Bevacizumab intravenously every three weeks for 48 weeks. After the treatment was finished, the patient underwent an additional 24 weeks of observation.
The results were positive. Twelve patients went from non-serviceable to serviceable hearing in the affected ear, according to the Gardner-Robertson scale. Five of those patients maintained improvement in hearing for six months after they stopped taking the drug.
While the drug has managed to show improvements in hearing, there are some side effects. The drug can cause slower wound healing, high blood pressure and bleeding. Three of the patients who participated in the study experienced some of these side effects. The anticancer drug also costs up to $5,000 per dose.
Dr. Jaishri Blackeley, director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Center, remains optimistic. “Our study shows that the hearing loss suffered by at least a subset of these patients isn’t permanent and that there is hope of reversing it,” says Dr. Blakeley. “The trial results, although limited by the small number of patients, suggest that patients may not need to get doses of drug as frequently as may be required for cancer and also may be able to take breaks in treatment. This may help reduce the frequency of negative side effects and control long-term health care costs.”
Sometimes, hearing loss can occur because of a variety of reasons: buildup of earwax, an ear infection, or even exposure to loud noises. Many people believe having a little trouble hearing every now and then is a minor inconvenience, and that the condition is only temporary. However, a new study suggests the sound deprivation can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
How Is Sound Deprivation Affecting Hearing?
When sound’s ability to travel between the ear canal and the inner ear is damaged, conductive hearing loss occurs. Sounds and voices will seem faint or muffled to anyone suffering with the disorder. In the study, performed by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, scientists wanted to be able to determine what happens to people with a recurring case of hearing loss.
By testing mice dealing with chronic conductive hearing loss in one ear, they were able to determine that sound deprivation causes irreversible damage to the inner ear.
“After a year of sound deprivation, we observed dramatic changes in the inner ear – notably, a significant loss of the synaptic connections through which the sensory cells send their electrical signals to the brain,” says Stephane F. Maison, Ph.D., lead researcher, investigator in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School.
What About Your Good Ear?
Even with the damage from sound deprivation, some individuals feel that not being able to hear from one ear is not a situation worth fixing.
“Although these conditions are routinely treated in industrial societies, a number of patients choose not to receive treatment, particularly when their medical condition affects only one ear,” Dr. Maison said. “For instance, patients with unilateral atresia, a condition in which the ear canal is closed or absent, see limited benefits of undergoing surgery when they can simply use their good ear.”
However, choosing not to deal with hearing loss is not a wise decision. Other studies have shown how a lack of hearing can affect memory and speech. The same is true for those with children dealing with hearing loss or ear infections, as it can be the causes of dizziness and balance problems. With the research in this study, Dr. Maison advises that “audiologists and physicians should advocate for early intervention and treat these middle ear conditions.”
New research, led by investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), found that dizziness and balance problems are common among U.S children. Dizziness and balance issues could be symptoms of greater underlying issues. If your child is suffering from any of these symptoms, the findings in this research might benefit you.
What makes this research different from previous studies on the subject is that this is the first large-scale survey that has national representation. The study analyzed data from 11,000 children, ages 3 to 17. The data was based on parents’ responses to the survey, which asked if their child suffered from indicators such as vertigo, poor balance problems when standing up, clumsiness/poor coordination, frequent falls, and fainting or light-headedness.
Researchers found that more than 1 in 20 (nearly 3.3 million) children have dizziness and balance problems. When it comes to which children display higher incidences of dizziness and balance problems, girls tend to have more problems (5.7 percent) compared to boys (5.0 percent), and non-Hispanic white children have more problems (6.1 percent) than non-Hispanic black children (4.3 percent).
James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D, director of the NIDCD and a pediatrician states, “These findings suggest that dizziness and balance problems are fairly common among children, and parents and providers should be aware of the impact these problems can have on our children.” This is important news for parents because Dr. Battey goes on to say, “Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a health care provider to rule out a serious underlying condition.”
Underlying Causes of Dizziness and Balance Problems
Some of the underlying causes of dizziness and balance problems in children include:
- Neurological problems,
- Ear infections,
- Head or neck injuries or concussions
- Developmental motor coordination disorder,
- Genetic causes,
- Metabolic problems such as hypoglycemia,
- Prescription medication or drugs,
- Severe headaches or migraines,
- Malformation of the ear, and
- Vision problems.
Parents should check up on their children’s condition, especially if they have hearing problems. Children with hearing problems are twice as likely to suffer from dizziness or balance issues. Even worse, dizziness and balance problems are related to impairments that limit a child’s ability to crawl, walk, run or play; cause frequent headaches or migraines; and lead to developmental delays. The child might also have a history of seizures in the last 12 months.
As a plea that more research needs to be done on the subject, Howard J. Hoffman, M.A., co-author of the study and director of epidemiology and statistics at the NIDCD states, “Dizziness and balance problems in children continue to be an understudied area, and we hope that this analysis leads to a better understanding of the scope and risk factors associated with these issues.”
Even though it is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA) is still a problem for many people. New research shows that scientists are one step closer to solving the problem of CSA and sleep-disordered breathing.
What is Central Sleep Apnea?
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a sleep-related disorder that affects an individual’s breathing. The disorder occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the body—signals that tell the vital muscles used in breathing to work during sleep.
Some of the signs and symptoms of CSA include:
- Diminished or absence of breathing during sleep, for short bursts of time (10 to 30 seconds),
- Inability to voluntarily operate diaphragm or thoracic muscles while waking up,
- Urgent need to breathe upon awakening,
- High blood pressure,
- Poor memory, and
- Daytime lapses that turn into sleep.
The new study, performed by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of Integrative Physiology, found key information about the signals that regulate breathing during sleep. These signals are important, especially during times where oxygen levels are low.
In order to find a solution to treating central sleep apnea, scientist looked into an enzyme called AMPK. The AMPK enzyme helps people breathe faster when their availability of oxygen is low. Using genetically modified mice that were not treated with the AMPK enzyme, the study was able to determine that the mice showed similar symptoms to people with central sleep apnea.
Scientists are hopeful that their findings can lead to new treatment for central sleep apnea. Professor Mark Evans, of the University’s Centre for Integrative Physiology, says, “Our findings identify exciting new avenues for the treatment of sleep disordered breathing, because drugs that mimic AMPK activation could restore normal breathing patterns in people suffering from this disease. Mice with AMPK deficiencies could also prove useful for helping us to identify such therapies.”
A new study recently published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology recommends that parents look into whether or not their children are displaying systems consistent with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Those symptoms may be the cause of behavioral problems in children. Even if your child has a high IQ, you may still want to examine how well he or she is sleeping.
Research into Behavioral Problems in Children
In the initial study, the researchers examined 147 children, ages 3 to 12, who were scheduled for adenotonsillectomy, a procedure that removes both the tonsils and the adenoids. This procedure is common for those who suffer from OSA, as the condition tends to enlarge the tonsils and adenoids. This stops children from breathing, often several times during the night.
A previous study found that after receiving an adenotonsillectomy, behavioral problems in children—who were struggling in school or at home—decreased. The difference between this study and others is the fact that it focused on children who were doing well from the start.
Regardless of whether or not the children were from low- or high-IQ groups, researchers saw that the children improved at a similar level when their sleep and behavior were evaluated six months after the adenotonsillectomy procedure.
What Behavioral Problems Should You Look into?
The data from these studies is great news for parents with struggling children. They can nail down whether or not their child may have OSA.
Hyperactivity is a prevalent symptom. According to Seockhoon Chung, M.D., Ph.D., and Associate Professor at Asan Medical Center in South Korea, “Children with obstructive sleep apnea are fidgeting and not able to stay on task, because they’re doing anything they can to stay awake.”
This problem is harder to determine in children with a high IQ, because hyperactivity is less apparent. Dr. Chung suggests that, “Even when those behavioral problems are minimal, improvement is still possible.”
Parents may also want to monitor whether or not their children are snoring loudly, or if their breathing is sporadic throughout the night. Children with a high IQ will still benefit from having their OSA treated; improving both their behavior during the day and their brain activity.
When it comes to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), it can be caused by many factors. Some of those causes are believed to include old age, brain injury or decreased muscle tone. However, does a lack of Vitamin D have an effect on OSA?
The Truth About Vitamin D Deficiency
Hypovitaminosis D, or Vitamin D deficiency, is typically found in people who lack an adequate amount of Vitamin D in their system, and/or do not get enough exposure to sunlight. Other causes include disorders and conditions that prevent the body from getting or properly processing Vitamin D into the body.
This is a serious condition with plenty of symptoms and diagnoses, including:
- Rickets, a childhood disease that impedes growth and deformity of long bones,
- Osteomalacia, a bone-thinning disorder which causes muscle weakness and bone fragility,
- Osteoporosis, a disease which decreased bone strength, leading to broken bones,
- Muscle twitching,
- Light-headedness, and
- Erectile dysfunction.
However, a new study published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society finds there is no evidence linking Vitamin D deficiency to OSA.
“Although our study was not designed to figure out why obese people have lower vitamin D levels, our results ultimately suggest that low Vitamin D levels do not cause or worsen OSA,” said senior investigator Ken Kunisaki, MD, MS, Medical Director of the Sleep Apnea Program at the Minneapolis VA and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “Therefore, taking additional Vitamin D supplements is not likely to prevent or improve OSA.”
Instead, researchers discovered there is more of a link between obesity and Vitamin D deficiency.
“The link between obesity and Vitamin D deficiency can be explained a number ways, one of which is that obese individuals are less likely to be physically active, thereby limiting their sun exposure,” said Dr. Kunisaki.
In the study, the researchers analyzed 2,827 generally healthy, mostly Caucasian (92.2%), elderly males (average age 76.4 years). The data they received from these participants found that there was no evidence to support a link between Vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of OSA in those without obesity.
What is the connection between sleep apnea and high blood pressure?
The connection between sleep apnea and heart disease is a complicated one. The causal connection is not clear, but we do know that those with sleep apnea today have a high chance of developing hypertension in the future. In fact, people with cardiovascular problems—especially high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke—have a higher prevalence of sleep apnea.
This fact makes sense because those with obstructive sleep apnea put their bodies under more stress because the condition prevents proper rest to occur on a daily basis. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when the upper throat closes, and the patient stops breathing numerous times during the night, putting them at risk for developing vascular disease that causes a specific type of treatment-resistant form of high blood pressure.
One of the problems with defining the connection between OSA and heart disease is that people with the former condition often have other complicating diseases as well.
When treating people with high blood pressure and sleep apnea, or heart failure and sleep apnea, the measures of blood pressure or heart failure are significantly improved. This suggests there is a cause-and-effect relationship between hypertension and sleep apnea.
Nancy Kanagy, PhD, a professor in the University of New Mexico (UNM) Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, is researching to understand how the connection occurs.
Insight is on the horizon
Just how sleep apnea heightens blood pressure demands further research, but we do know that up to one in five people may suffer from it. Recently, the National Institutes of Health issued a call for proposals on sleep apnea research on the connection several years ago. Kanagy realized UNM’s experience in conducting vascular studies could provide much needed insight here.
“Most researchers were looking at the sympathetic nervous system,” Kanagy says in a release. “We thought, ‘Why not develop a model to investigate vascular changes and contributions to the elevated blood pressure?”
Kanagy’s discovered a key connection when her team developed a rat model of sleep apnea and discovered that after 14 days of repeated exposure to hypoxia during sleep increases blood pressure, even during waking hours. Hypoxia is a condition when the body or a region of the body is deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen. The researchers found that hypoxia increases production of an artery-constricting peptide called endothelin, and this peptide elevates blood pressure. Further studies are investigating exactly how that happens.
Her team is further investigating how hydrogen sulfide molecules (H2S) play a crucial role in controlling blood pressure. In the study, they found that sleep apnea patients show significantly lower H2S levels compared with normal sleepers. This molecule appears to limit inflammation and open arteries, which leads to relieving the cardiac and vascular systems from constriction.
“Long-term, we are hoping that a better understanding of these mechanisms will lead to new and more effective therapies to treat cardiovascular disease in sleep apnea patients,” Kanagy says.