Health and Fitness

How Subtle Head Motions, Quiet Sounds Are Reported To The Brain

The phrase "perk up your ears" made more sense last year after scientists discovered how the quietest sounds are amplified in the cochlea before being transmitted to the brain. When a sound is barely audible, extremely sensitive inner-ear "hair cells" - which are neurons equipped with tiny, sensory hairs on their surface - pump up the sound by their very motion and mechanically amplify it. Richard Rabbitt of the University of Utah, a faculty member in the MBL's Biology of the Inner Ear course, reported last spring on the magnification powers of the hair cell's hairs. Now, Rabbitt and MBL senior scientist Stephen Highstein have evidence that hair cells perform similarly in another context - in the vestibular system, which sends information about balance and spatial orientation to the brain. "The bottom line is we have 'accelerometers' in the head that report on the direction of gravity and the motion of the head to the brain, " says Highstein. "What we found is they respond with a greater magnitude than expected for very small motions of the head.

Restored Hearing Making Sound Success

In 2009 a student research project investigating a low frequency therapy for temporary tinnitus was joint runner-up in the 2009 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, held in Dublin, Ireland. The student research project which has now evolved into a web-based company, Restored Hearing was one of the companies which showcased recently at the 2010 exhibition. In 2009 Eimear O'Carroll, Rhona Togher, Niamh Chapman, then 6th Year Leaving Certificate students in the Ursuline College, Sligo, NW Ireland, together with Anthony Carolan, their physics teacher entered the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2009 with a project entitled 'The Sound of Silence An Investigation into Low Frequency Therapy for Tinnitus Sufferers'. In addition to being overall runner-up, their project won the Health Research Board's special prize for medical innovation. During 2009, Eimear, Rhona and Anthony further developed their project incorporating as Restored Hearing in May 2009 and formally launching in August 2009.

Surprises About How Sound Is Processed: Seeing The Brain Hear

New research shows our brains are a lot more chaotic than previously thought, and that this might be a good thing. Neurobiologists at the University of Maryland have discovered information about how the brain processes sound that challenges previous understandings of the auditory cortex that suggested an organization based on precise neuronal maps. In the first study of the auditory cortex conducted using advanced imaging techniques, Patrick Kanold, Assistant Professor of Biology, Shihab Shamma, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Systems Research (ISR), and Sharba Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Research Scientist (ISR), describe a much more complex picture of neuronal activity. Their findings are published in the January 31 online edition of Nature Neuroscience. All our knowledge of how the brain really works has been based on taking a small sampling of all available neurons and making inferences about how the other neurons respond, Dr. Kanold explains.

Children With Cochlear Implants Have Quality Of Life Equal To Normal Hearing Peers

Children who have cochlear implants (CI) rank their quality of life (QOL) equal to their normally hearing (NH) peers, indicates new research in the February 2010 issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that restores partial hearing to the deaf. It is surgically implanted in the inner ear and activated by a device worn outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sound louder or clearer. Instead, the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing deaf or severely hard of hearing individuals to receive sound. The National Institutes of Health estimate that as many as 59, 000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants, with roughly half of those in the pediatric population. Prior research has indicated that deaf children feel less socially accepted, experience more difficulty in making friends, and demonstrate greater adjustment problems than their hearing peers.

Antibiotic Found To Protect Hearing In Mice

A type of antibiotic that can cause hearing loss in people has been found to paradoxically protect the ears when given in extended low doses in very young mice. The surprise finding came from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who looked to see if loud noise and the antibiotic kanamycin together would produce a bigger hearing loss than either factor by itself. The results will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and are now available online. "The protective effect of this type of antibiotic is a previously unknown phenomenon that now leads to at least a dozen important questions about what mechanisms cause hearing loss and what mechanisms could be protective, " says senior author William W. Clark, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and director of the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences, a division of CID at Washington University School of Medicine. The research project arose out of concern for premature infants being airlifted to St.

Florida Commits To Provide Effective Communication For Deaf And Hard-of-Hearing Persons

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) will provide qualified sign language interpreters as required by federal law to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons using its programs and services across the state under a Settlement Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). An HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation found that the State violated Federal discrimination laws when it failed to provide interpreters to deaf persons in critical situations, such as during child protective services investigations, and during treatment in State mental health facilities. Access to quality health care and social services programs are directly dependent on effective communication. DCF employs approximately 14, 000 persons statewide to deliver a variety of health and human services programs, including adoption, child and adult protective services, and Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities and services.

Let's Hear It For Audiologists, Europe

Hearing professionals working in the NHS have a chance to be recognised as the country's best following the launch of an exciting audiology competition. The 2010 Audiologist of the Year award has been launched to find the year's outstanding hearing professional. Hearing aid battery maker Rayovac is organising the competition to celebrate hearing healthcare and recognise the skills and dedication of professionals who go above and beyond the call of duty to help. The competition, which is recognised as the leading award in Europe, is judged by an independent panel of industry experts. It is open to audiologists working in the NHS and in private practice who must be nominated for the award by patients. Further information about the competition is available at http://www.audiologistoftheyear.eu. The website also contains a range of promotional materials audiologists can use to inform their patients about the competition. Paula Brinson-Pyke, marketing manager for Rayovac, said: "There are many outstanding professionals operating in the UK across the NHS and in the private sector.

Going To The Gym Shouldn't Be A Workout For Your Eardrums

Listening to an iPod while working out feels like second nature to many people, but University of Alberta researcher Bill Hodgetts says we need to consider the volume levels in our earphones while working up a sweat. Hodgetts, assistant professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, says his research has found that exercising in a gym often prompts people to turn up the volume to potentially unsafe levels for the ear. The researcher found that the study participants, who were in a gym-like setting, listened at potentially dangerous levels while working out, likely due to the presence of background noise. But he says it isn't the listening level alone that's risky, it's how long a person listens at that level. What Hodgetts found is that almost half of his study participants listened for a length of time during exercise that put them at risk for hearing loss. The good news? The solution is simple, he says: get better earphones, those that "seal" the ear canal, acting as an earplug and thus reducing background noise.

New Grants For Research Into Hearing Disorders, UK

Lives of millions of people with hearing difficulties may soon benefit from several new grants for research from leading medical research charity, deafness research UK. One of the grants for a pilot study involves finding out if there is a possible relationship between age related hearing loss, genetics and the environment. The study taking place at the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King's College in London will use older female twins because of their similar genetic background, but different hearing profiles. If the initial tests are successful, they will go on to conduct further research on more than 3, 800 twins. Vivienne Michael, CEO of Deafness Research UK said: "This latest research could reveal more information urgently needed to prevent and eventually cure progressive hearing loss all together. That would of course be a major medical breakthrough and we are cautiously optimistic that this study has a chance of reaching such a positive conclusion in the long-term.

Caffeine Abstinence: An Ineffective And Potentially Distressing Tinnitus Therapy

New research has found giving up caffeine does not relieve tinnitus and acute caffeine withdrawal might add to the problem. This is the first study of its kind to look at the effect of caffeine consumption on tinnitus. The study, by the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at Bristol University and supported by a grant from Deafness Research UK, is published online in the International Journal of Audiology. Researchers carried out the first pseudo-randomised, double-blinded, placebo controlled study of phased caffeine withdrawal and abstention to test for a connection between caffeine consumption and tinnitus. The aim of the study was to provide evidence for therapeutic practice to the tinnitus community. Sixty-six volunteers who experienced tinnitus and who usually consumed at least 150 mg a day of caffeine took part in a 30-day trial. Their usual caffeinated tea and coffee was replaced with double-blinded supplies, under one of two conditions: usual caffeine consumption followed by phased withdrawal;

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