Posts tagged hearing impairment
If you often hear a sound that isn’t there, then you may have tinnitus. This condition affects millions of Americans. In fact, the CDC estimates over 50 million Americans are dealing with this troubling health condition. Of those 50 million, 2 million suffer from severe tinnitus. There is no cure, but new technology seems to be helping patients.
The Brain Fitness Program – Tinnitus (BRP-T)
Unfortunately, tinnitus comes with cognitive issues. This causes a decline in reaction times and the ability to pay attention. It can even interfere with a patient’s ability to process and remember certain situations. Researchers believe that the answer to this problem is to strengthen the brain. Through neuroplasticity, they hope to heal the mind by forming new neural connections.
One attempt at “working out” the brain is a training program called the Brain Fitness Program – Tinnitus (BRP-T). Through an online interface, the program uses 11 interactive exercises. It seeks to improve simple acoustic stimuli, continuous speech, and visual stimuli.
Fixing Severe Tinnitus
Through testing a group with severe tinnitus and a control group, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to find out if the BRP-T actually worked. Randomly selected individuals from both groups used the program an hour every day, five days a week for two months.
As predicted, the tinnitus patients showed improvements. After thorough testing, their perception, memory, attention, and concentration showed better results than those who did not undergo the training.
Researchers say this about the results: “We believe that continued research into the role of cognitive training rehabilitation programs is supported by the findings of this study, and the role of neuroplasticity seems to hold a prominent place in the future treatments for tinnitus,” the researchers write. “On the basis of our broad recruitment and enrollment strategies, we believe the results of this study are applicable to most patients with tinnitus who seek medical attention.”
As we get older, we begin to worry more and more about our bodies. What is ailing us and what will fail next? These are the questions that many of us have. For that very reason, scientists look into how our bodies operate to get not only a better understand but to fix our illnesses. The American Physiological Society performed a recent study examining the causes of age-related hearing loss and difficulties processing speech. Here is what they found.
Processing Speech Deteriorates
Processing speech is important. It helps us communicate effectively with others, especially when the volume changes in an area. Your hearing adapts to understand what someone is saying in noisy or quiet areas. A lot of what controls your hearing has to do with the brain. And when the brain malfunctions, your senses go as well.
The scientists at the American Physiological Society suspected that a decline in midbrain and cortical activity are responsible for hearing loss. So, they tested two groups using an electroencephalogram to measure mid-brain activity, and a magnetoencephalogram to measure the cortical activity. A group of younger adults around the age of 22 and another group of older individuals around the age of 65.
As expected, the older groups experienced difficulties processing speech. The environments noise level did not matter. Whether it was loud or quiet, the older group had trouble while the younger group took less time processing cues and speech. And these results show in the same in their brains.
The activity in the midbrain and cortex was low, showing that the health of these key areas is necessary to function. They help us process speech and understand others effectively. Hopefully, further research can tell us more. Aging can be difficult but it doesn’t have to stop us from living life. Maybe, it will be a sign to older adults to seek alternate options to hear from their physician.
Our senses are crucial aspects of our body, with each serving a specific purpose. However, it turns our senses do not work alone. In a coordinated effort, they work together to function properly. According to a recent study by NYU Langone Medical Center, our sense of hearing collaborates with some of our other senses to better interpret sound.
“What the brain ‘hears’ depends on what is ‘seen’ in addition to specific sounds, as the brain calculates how to respond,” says study senior investigator and neuroscientist Robert Froemke, Ph.D., an assistant professor at NYU Langone and its Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine.
The nerve cells that are responsible for hearing also use the other senses. As Dr. Froemke stated, sight plays a big role in providing context. When you can see your surroundings, your brain knows how to properly react to certain sounds. Think of sights relationship to hearing as a form of confirmation, helping the brain determine what the origin of a certain sound is.
“Our study shows how the same sound can mean different things inside the brain depending on the situation,” says Froemke. “We know, for instance, that people learn to respond without alarm to the honk of a car horn if heard from the safety of their homes, but are startled to hear the same honk while crossing a busy street.”
NYU Langone’s team used mice and treats to look into how the nerve cells work. What they found is that depending on the context, the brain will adjust hearing accordingly. Surprisingly, when the mice expected a treat, these nerve cells weren’t as active. However, when they expected a reward based on a sound, some of these nerves were highly active.
Further research needs to be done. What scientists should look into is how these nerves react in a person without sight or poor sight. Hopefully, it can help them understand cognitive issues.
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.”
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 10 percent (25 million people) of the United States population has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes. Approximately 15 percent (26 million people) of Americans, between the ages of 20 and 69, have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises.
Scientists continue to search for answers to how hearing loss affects the body. A recent study has made an interesting discovery about the auditory cortex—which is the part of the brain that processes sound.
Revealing Details About the Auditory Cortex
Researchers at several institutions, including Harvard University, sought to better understand how the auditory cortex works. Using tonotopic maps (images of the brain), the scientists were able to analyze how this part of the brain reacts to different tones. They discovered that for both the hearing impaired and those with normal hearing, the neural architecture in the auditory cortex is identical.
“One reason this is interesting is because we don’t know what causes the brain to organize the way it does,” said Striem-Amit, the lead author of the study. “How important is each person’s experience for their brain development? In audition, a lot is known about (how it works) in hearing people, and in animals…but we don’t know whether the same organization is retained in congenitally deaf people.”
The result of the study raises a lot of questions. In their test, the auditory cortex reacted to not only sound but visual stimulation. “We know the architecture is in place—does it serve a function?” Striem-Amit said. “We know, for example, that the auditory cortex of the deaf is also active when they view sign language and other visual information. The question is: What do these regions do in the deaf? Are they actually processing something similar to what they process in hearing people, only through vision?”
More research needs to be done. While the auditory cortex seems to develop in a similar manner, whether or not the person is deaf, some suggest it still might play a vital role in hearing.
Single-sided deafness (SSD) does not affect only your hearing, but it can result in a difficulty understanding speech and other cognitive issues. It is something you may want to look into before the condition becomes permanent. Currently, Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) hearing aids are the only treatment for single-sided deafness, but they are not as effective as they should be. However, scientists may have discovered a way to treat people suffering from SSD.
Symptoms and Treatment of Single-Sided Deafness
Around 60,000 people in the United States are affected by single-sided deafness. Physical trauma, microtia, meningitis, Waardenburg synodrome, acoustic neuroma and many other viral infections and brain tumors are known causes of the condition.
Unfortunately, patients have to deal with quite a few debilitating symptoms, including:
- Difficulty hearing,
- Trouble filtering out background noise,
- Struggle determining sound direction,
- Understanding speech,
- Interpersonal communication difficulties,
- Frequent headaches, and
A New Discovery in Brain Plasticity
Finding the best treatment for single-sided deafness has been a challenging task for scientists. The hardest part is measuring how effective the treatment is in resolving the disorder. However, researchers who conducted a new study at the University of California believe they have found a lead to a cure.
Researchers learned more about brain plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to modify its own structure when encountering changes within the body. This information can help scientists figure out how the brain works, how to proceed using this knowledge to overcome injures, and how to make devices, like hearing aids, more effective.
Scientists tested 26 subjects, including 13 people with SSD, and 13 with normal hearing. Using magnetoencephalographic imaging (MEGI), as well as fMRI scans, researchers were able to observe changes in the brain – specifically within the subjects’ auditory cortices. They discovered that when the patients were exposed to sound at different frequencies, the neurons in the brain activated across both hemispheres.
However, for the patients with SSD, the spread of neuron activation was more prominent in one hemisphere, but much less in the other. The other group of patients with normal hearing showed a symmetrical display within both hemispheres of the brain.
Scientists hope that these results will help them create biomarkers, which will allow them to measure the efficiency of future treatment options. They also believe that potential therapies using brain stimulation may be able to restore hearing and cure SSD.
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.”
When you think of hearing aids, you get the image of a contraption wrapped around someone’s ear. That’s the same image everyone gets. It’s also the reason people who suffer from hearing loss avoid getting the devices. They feel like it is some form of universal signifier that they are officially getting old. However, what if you could surgically have a hearing implant placed into your ear?
Esteem: A New Hearing Implant
“Esteem,” a new implantable hearing device, has been created by Envoy Medical Corporation. The new hearing implant was developed for patients with moderate-to-severe nerve-related hearing impairment. The company’s primary goal is to allow patients to hear again with 100 percent clarity, and return to a normal quality of life.
The University of Missouri’s Ear, Nose and Throat Center recently started offering the hearing implant to patients. In fact, they are the only health provider in the state to do so.
In order for the implant to be placed into a patient’s ear, they need to have a mastoid and middle-ear cavity, which most people have. However, patients’ ears are thoroughly reviewed through a CT scan before the device is implanted.
There are high expectations for the device. As the only doctor certified to provide the surgical procedure to patients in Missouri, Dr. Arnaldo Rivera states, “This device will allow the patient to do everyday activities such as showering and swimming that a typical hearing aid would need to be removed for.”
Returning people to fully enjoying everyday activities is a big part of Envoy Medical’s mission. Their hearing implants are waterproof, they filter wind naturally, and are designed for sleeping. It also features a battery that can last from four-and-a-half to nine years, depending on how it is used. These are features not normally found in other hearing devices.
For people interested in the Esteem hearing implant, it costs $33,000 for the device and procedure. Envoy Medical is making sure that hearing loss does not become a permanent disability.
Picture being surrounded by loud music and thousands of screaming fans. Sounds like a good time, doesn’t it? However, loud music can lead to extensive hearing loss. While we might enjoy experiencing our favorite band or artist live and in-person, how do we prevent the damage that is done to our hearing? A new study finds that ear plugs may be the key to rocking out at a concert and protecting your ears at the same time.
The Rise of Hearing Loss
More and more people are suffering with hearing loss. According the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the number of adolescents with hearing loss has increased by 31% over the last two decades, since 1988.
The ongoing theory among scientists is that social events such as concerts, festivals, and nightclubs are the reason for the increasing number. These events are known to produce sound pressure levels of up to 110 decibels for several hours. The CDC states that hearing loss can occur from being exposed to any sound louder than 85 decibels for extended periods of time.
Research Into Ear Plugs and Loud Music
Wilko Grolman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and his colleagues tested over 51 individuals attending an outdoor music festival. Twenty-five of the participants wore earplugs to the concert, while the other 26 participants did not. The concert lasted 4.5 hours and the average noise level reached 100 decibels.
The volunteers were tested using an audiogram to determine their state of hearing. They found that those who wore the earplugs were affected far less than those who went to the concert unprotected. Of the participants who suffered from hearing loss, only 8 percent were in the earplug group, compared to the 42 percent within the unprotected group. The results are similar for those who had tinnitus after being exposed to loud noises.
Authors of the study are confident in the results. They state, “This RCT [randomized clinical trial] adds evidence that earplugs are effective in preventing temporary hearing loss during high recreational music levels. Therefore, the use of earplugs should be actively promoted and encouraged to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.”
Hopefully, the research will help music lovers continue their recreational activities and protect their ears from hearing loss in the future.