Health and Fitness

Link Between Common Antibacterial Treatment And Sensorineural Hearing Loss In Cystic Fibrosis Patients

An otherwise effective treatment for cystic fibrosis places patients at a high risk of sensorineural hearing loss, according to new research published in the July edition of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30, 000 children and adults in the United States (70, 000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. Researchers reviewed the medical records of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients at Children's Hospital Boston over a 13 year period, and found that seven of 50 CF patients (14%) suffered from sensorineural hearing loss. Of that group, 43 percent of those that had received aminoglycosides intravenously had received more than 10 courses of the treatment;

One Step Closer To An Artificial Nerve Cell

Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet and Link ping University are well on the way to creating the first artificial nerve cell that can communicate specifically with nerve cells in the body using neurotransmitters. The technology has been published in an article in Nature Materials. The methods that are currently used to stimulate nerve signals in the nervous system are based on electrical stimulation. Examples of this are cochlear implants, which are surgically inserted into the cochlea in the inner ear, and electrodes that are used directly in the brain. One problem with this method is that all cell types in the vicinity of the electrode are activated, which gives undesired effects. Scientists have now used an electrically conducting plastic to create a new type of "delivery electrode" that instead releases the neurotransmitters that brain cells use to communicate naturally. The advantage of this is that only neighbouring cells that have receptors for the specific neurotransmitter, and that are thus sensitive to this substance, will be activated.

Hearing Improved In First Successful Medical Treatment For Tumor-Inducing Genetic Disorder

Treatment with the angiogenesis inhibitor bevacizumab improved hearing and alleviated other symptoms in patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). In a paper to appear in the July 23 New England Journal of Medicine, which is receiving early online release, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report that bevacizumab treatment successfully shrank characteristic tumors in a small group of NF2 patients, the first reported successful NF2 treatment not involving surgery or radiation. "This kind of treatment response is unprecedented, " says Scott Plotkin, MD, PhD, of the Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology in the MGH Cancer Center, lead author of the NEJM paper. "Our study is the first to provide evidence that a drug can shrink vestibular schwannomas - benign tumors on the balance and hearing nerves - and the first to show that patients' hearing can be improved." NF2 is an inherited genetic disorder in which benign tumors develop throughout the nervous system. Vestibular schwannomas are the most common NF2-associated tumors, and although they grow slowly, they usually cause patients to lose all or most of their hearing by young adulthood or middle age.

Review: Weak Support For Workplace Hearing Loss Programs

A new review of existing research says there is little evidence to support mandatory hearing-loss prevention programs at the workplace. Workers could simply wear earplugs and other devices that protect hearing, but even those are not always effective, the review authors found. In the big picture, "We still rely too much on hearing protection, which is not sufficient, " said review lead author Jos Verbeek, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Kuopio, Finland. An estimated nine million American workers experience exposure to high levels of noise at the workplace. People who work in construction, manufacturing and mining jobs are at especially high risk of losing their hearing. "It's a very common workplace injury and it's very invisible, " said Deanna Meinke, an associate professor of audiology at the University of Northern Colorado. "It takes a while for it to get bad enough for people to pay attention." She has no affiliation with the review. Verbeek and colleagues searched for studies that examined strategies to prevent hearing loss in the workplace.

Research To Investigate The Clinical And Cost-effectiveness Of Bone Anchored Hearing Aids

New research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme will assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of bone anchored hearing aids (BAHAs) for people who are bilaterally deaf (deaf in both ears). Hearing impairment is the most common sensory deficit and it is estimated that there are approximately 688, 000 severely to profoundly deaf adults in the UK. According to evidence given to the House of Commons Health Committee, the NHS tariff puts the cost per person of conventional hearing aid provision from appointment and clinic time to use of equipment at about 270. The price of a working BAHA per patient is estimated to be at least 4500. Most people with hearing loss can benefit from conventional air-conduction hearing aids, which work by amplifying sound passed along the ear canal to the eardrum making it vibrate. However, some people cannot wear these or do not benefit from them because the conduction process is obstructed in some way.

New Virtual Office Hearing Aid Programming Software Puts An Online Audiologist In Your Personal Computer

Audiologists from America Hears, Inc. now make online house calls to hearing aid customers who install the latest version of the company's Virtual Office hearing aid programming software on their personal computers at home. The leading online supplier of premium digital hearing instruments introduced a new version of its Virtual Office software with remote-control capabilities enabling America Hears professionals to provide technical support and training over the Internet on customers' personal computers at home. "Since 2001, America Hears has designed and developed hearing aids and fitting programs that place hearing aid users in control of their own hearing health, " said Henry C. Smith, CEO and founder of America Hears. "Many of our customers are highly motivated by a 'do-it-yourself' ethic, and our new Virtual Office programming software lets them do as much fine-tuning to their America Hears hearing instruments as they want. At the same time, Virtual Office enables them to work collaboratively with our hearing-health professionals, who can make additional adjustments and deliver them directly into the hearing aids using the power of Virtual Office and the Internet.

Auditory Illusion: When Sound Is Fragmented The Brain Fills In The Gaps

A new study led by scientists in The Netherlands has revealed the mechanisms through which the brain creates "auditory continuity illusion", where a physically interrupted sound is heard as continuing through background noise; thus when we try to listen to conversation in a noisy room, the brain fills in the gaps between interrupted sound fragments to create what we perceive as a continuous sound. The study was the work of senior author Dr Lars Riecke from the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University and colleagues and was published online in the journal Cell Press on 25 November. It is quite common for us to "hear" sounds that aren't really there: human hearing is a constructive process. The brain has the ability to take auditory fragments and generate an overall "image" of the sound. It is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing but still having a good enough impression of the overall picture. In this new study, Riecke and colleagues have revealed some new insights into how the brain is able to do this.

Major Improvement For The Hearing-Impaired With New Hearing-Aid Software Application

Hearing aids and cochlear implants act as tiny amplifiers so the deaf and hard-of-hearing can make sense of voices and music. Unfortunately, these devices also amplify background sound, so they're less effective in a noisy environment like a busy workplace or caf. But help is on the way. Prof. Miriam Furst-Yust of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering has developed a new software application named "Clearcall" for cochlear implants and hearing aids which improves speech recognition for the hard-of-hearing by up to 50%. "Hearing-impaired people have a real problem understanding speech, " says Prof. Furst-Yust. "Their devices may be useful in a quiet room, but once the background noise levels ramp up, the devices become less useful. Our algorithm helps filter out irrelevant noise so they can better understand the voices of their friends and family." Based on a cochlear model that she devised, the new patented technology is now being developed to improve the capabilities of existing cochlear implants and digital hearing aids.

Shedding Light On The Brain Mechanism Responsible For The Processing Of Speech

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have succeeded for the first time in devising a model that describes and identifies a basic cellular mechanism that enables networks of neurons to efficiently decode speech in changing conditions. The research may lead to the upgrading of computer algorithms for faster and more precise speech recognition as well as to the development of innovative treatments for auditory problems among adults and young people. Our brain has the capability to process speech and other complex auditory stimuli and to make sense of them, even when the sound signals reach our ears in a slowed, accelerated or distorted manner. However, the neuronal mechanisms that enable our brain to perceive a word correctly, for example, that is pronounced in different ways by different speakers or to understand a heavy accent, was a mystery to scientists until now. Research associate Dr. Robert G tig and Prof. Haim Sompolinsky of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University have succeeded in describing a cellular process by which sensory neurons in the brain can automatically adjust their perceptual clocks and thus correct large temporal variations in the rate of sounds and speech that arrive from the environment.

AHRF And Northwestern University To Present A Lecture On Hearing And Hearing Loss On August 26

On Wednesday, August 26th, the American Hearing Research Foundation together with Northwestern University will present a lecture on hearing, hearing loss and hearing loss therapies entitled "What You Always Wanted to Know About Hearing: Ask a Doctor." The lecture will be given by former AHRF grant recipient Claus-Peter Richter, M.D., Ph.D., and Andrew Fishman, M.D. The lecture will take place at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Feinberg Pavilion, 3rd floor conference center rooms B and C from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Feinberg Pavilion is at 251 E. Huron, Chicago. Claus-Peter Richter, M.D., Ph.D. is assistant professor of otolaryngology at Northwestern and specializes in otologic research. Andrew Fishman, M.D., is an otologist/neurotologist, skull base surgeon, and cochlear implant specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He is also an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The American Hearing Research Foundation has been funding grants to study hearing loss and hearing loss therapies for more than 50 years at universities and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada Source: American Hearing Research Foundation.

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