Posts tagged hearing loss
As we grow older the risk of developing debilitating conditions increases. As a result, staying healthy becomes more and more of a pressing concern for older adults. The truth is that the body doesn’t work as well as it used to and some of our functions may potentially fail as we age. Thankfully, scientists and researchers are always looking into how to treat and detect these situations before they arise.
Take dementia for instance. There are several causes of this degenerative disorder, including neurological diseases, vascular disorders, brain injuries, and more. However, there is one commonality that patients with these diseases share – their age. Approximately 5 percent to 8 percent of adults over 65 have some form of dementia. Even worse, that risk doubles every five years after people reach the age of 65.
One important aspect of treating this disease is detecting it early. Researchers have found a new way to determine if patients are affected by the disease.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia comes in two different forms. The first is cortical dementias, which usually shows up in the form of Alzheimer’s or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This form of dementia can cause server memory loss, cognitive issues and may impair your ability to remember words.
The second form of dementia is subcortical. The diseases that are most commonly associated with this are Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and HIV. Patients with these diseases are very likely to difficulty thinking quickly or starting a task.
Detecting the Disorder
The hard part about detecting dementia is that these changes may not appear at first or can develop slowly over time. This can lead to some people not detecting signs of the disorder until it is too late. The biggest indicator of the condition in its early stages is memory and thinking problems. Now, scientists at the Baycrest-University of Memphis are saying that hearing and communication issues are a sign as well.
The brainstem and the auditory cortex are the regions of the brain known to process speech. Once thought to resistant to dementia’s effects, the region has shown trouble processing speech from sound to words. In order to look more into this change, researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the brain’s electrical activity in the brainstem and auditory cortex. With 80 percent accuracy, they were able to predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that can develop into Alzheimer’s.
“This opens a new door in identifying biological markers for dementia since we might consider using the brain’s processing of speech sounds as a new way to detect the disease earlier,” says Dr. Claude Alain, the study’s senior author and senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and professor at the University of Toronto’s psychology department.
Dr. Alain continues, stating that “Losing the ability to communicate is devastating and this finding could lead to the development of targeted treatments or interventions to maintain this capability and slow progression of the disease.”
There is no cure for dementia but with continued study, scientists can find new and innovative ways to help people with the disease live normally.
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.
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.
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.
Those who deal with hearing damage suffer from a series of issues. These issues include hearing loss, difficulties understanding others, poor speech, and other communication problems. A cochlear implant is a tools used to combat this type of hearing loss. Every year, scientists research the effectiveness of this surgical implant.
Their research helps them discover new ways to make the device work better. One study found that the level of hearing damage a person has suffered does not determine how well a cochlear implant works. Another study discovered that the benefits were significant.
Why Is the Cochlear Implant Effective?
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically inserted into person’s ear. Using a microphone, the device converts external noise to digital signals. These signals are sent to the auditory nerve and processed by the brain as sound.
The cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. The aid amplifies sound for damaged ears, while the implant works around the damage and directly stimulates the auditory nerve.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute tested individuals with significant, little, and no residual hearing prior to their cochlear implant surgery. What they found is that those who had the worse hearing damage experienced substantial improvements in hearing. They were able to interpret speech in loud spaces and speech patterns better.
Another study discovered that adults over the age of 65, with profound hearing loss, greatly benefited from cochlear implants. After surgery, their speech perception and cognitive function improved drastically. The brain’s cognitive function is its ability to reason, recall, pay attention, and understand language. The better you can hear, the more this function works.
Scientists believe that cochlear implants work well. Both its ability to send electrical signal directly to the auditory nerve, and the brain’s ability to properly interpret these signals improves hearing. This spells good news for those with significant hearing loss. It helps them to communicate better others around them.
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.