In collaboration with the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, the researchers discovered a gene that produces a key protein in the inner ear — the cochlea — called glutamate receptor metabotropic 7 (GRM7). The GRM7 protein is intimately involved in converting sound into the code of the nervous system, in the cochlea, which is then sent to the parts of the brain used for hearing and speech processing.
Now having identified the gene, the researchers said people can be tested and takes steps earlier in life — such as avoiding loud noises, wearing ear protection and avoiding certain medicines known to damage hearing — to protect their hearing.
“This gene is the first genetic biomarker for human age related hearing loss, meaning if you had certain configurations of this gene you would know that you are probably going to lose your hearing faster than someone who might have another configuration,” said Robert Frisina Jr.
The Frisinas launched their study of genetics’ role in hearing loss nine years ago in hopes of identifying the cause of one of the most common forms of permanent hearing loss. Clinically, age-related hearing loss has been defined as a progressive loss of sensitivity to sound, starting at the high frequencies, inability to understand speech, the lengthening of the minimum discernible temporal gap in sounds, and a decrease in the ability to filter out background noise. Researchers now know the causes of presbycusis are likely a combination of multiple environmental and genetic factors.
“Age-related hearing loss is a very prevalent problem in our society. It costs billions of dollars every year to manage and deal with it. It’s right up there with heart disease and arthritis as far as being one of the top three chronic medical conditions of the aged,” said Robert Frisina Jr.
DNA analyses were conducted and completed at the University of Rochester Medical School and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The study involved 687 people who underwent three hours of extensive examination of their hearing capabilities, including genetic analyses and testing of speech processing.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or is showing signs of dementia, a thorough hearing check is in order.
Studies suggest that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. If not managed, as for example with hearing aids, hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound.
When an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the loved one has been treated for hearing loss.
When left unaddressed, hearing loss can compound the difficulties that people with Alzheimer’s and their families already face. But in many cases, the appropriate use of hearing aids can benefit people with hearing loss, including those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.
A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any medical evaluation prior to the evaluation of dementia. By addressing the hearing loss, quality-of-life for those who have Alzheimer’s can be improved and they can live life as fully as possible.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Today, an estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and they are supported by nearly 15 million caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
There are 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs, please see a doctor. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.
o Memory loss that disrupts daily life
o Challenges in planning or solving problems
o Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
o Confusion with time or place
o Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
o New problems with words in speaking or writing
o Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
o Decreased or poor judgment
o Withdrawal from work or social activities
o Changes in mood and personality
For more information about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, early detection and diagnosis, contact the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free Helpline at (800)272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/10signs.
By: Dr. Kevin M. Liebe, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA
Doctor of Audiology
Columbia Basin Hearing & Balance Center
This Father’s Day, and throughout the week leading up to it—National Men’s Health Week— men are encouraged to be proactive with their health, including their hearing health.
When left untreated, hearing loss can disrupt family life, strain relationships and increase the likelihood of depression and other psychological problems. Yet, millions of men with hearing loss have never even had a hearing test, either due to denial or lack of awareness that the symptoms they are experiencing are the result of hearing impairment. It’s no wonder that a hearing examination was recently labeled as the “most neglected health test for men” by MSN Health.
Sixty percent of the 36 million people with hearing loss in the United States are male, with a majority not seeking treatment for their hearing problems.
Despite the strong associations with many chronic conditions and diseases, most primary care doctors (over 75% in surveys) do not typically ask their patients if they have hearing problems and often do not include a hearing exam as part of a routine physical.
Conditions that afflict millions of American men, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, are all associated with increased risk of hearing loss. Research also ties hearing loss to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (40 to 69), depression/anxiety, cognitive decline, and reduced earnings.
In a 2010 study, researchers at the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss may lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. The use of hearing aids, however, was shown to dramatically reduce the risk of unemployment and income loss.
Because men are more likely to have noisy jobs and hobbies, preserving hearing is critical to preventing problems in the future. Consistent use of hearing protection when in the presence of loud noise is an important part of maintaining a health auditory system.
Despite reluctance to do so, it’s important that men pay attention to their health. Diagnosis and treatment of a hearing loss may not only result in better hearing, but has the potential to significantly improve the overall quality of a person’s life.
The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist.
Have more questions about hearing loss? Check our Hearing FAQ page.
Eye-Opening Facts about Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States
Approximately one in 10 Americans, or 36 million people have some degree of hearing loss.
More than half of the people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. Many of these people are still in the workforce
Fewer than 15 percent of physicians today ask patients if they have any hearing problems.
People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
The vast majority of people who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids report significant improvements in their quality of life at home, work and in social settings.
Facts on Men’s Health:
A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage compared to women.
Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.
Men make 1/2 as many physician visits for preventative care, compared to women.
Men are 28 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure.
Men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.
Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely than women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.
Source: Department of Health & Human Services; Men’s Health Network
About National Men’s Health Week National Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year the week leading up to and including Father’s Day, which is June 11-17 in 2012. During this week, individuals, families, communities, and others work to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
Here at Advanced Hearing Care, I spend a lot of time counseling patients and their families and friends on realistic expectations for hearing treatment and rehabilitation. Some of the conversations can be quite passionate, especially when the family can’t understand why their loved one cannot seem to hear them, even though they’re wearing their hearing aids. After all, hearing aids are supposed to fix the problem, right?
Well, no, not really. Hearing aids are wonderful devices that supplement bad hearing. They help a person make the most of the hearing that they may have left. But they are not a substitute for good hearing. Nothing, no magic pill or surgery, can restore a person’s hearing to the way it was before the hearing loss occurred.
How Hearing Works
One of the biggest reasons why people have this misconception of hearing aids and hearing treatment is that they don’t really understand how hearing works or what is happening when someone has a hearing loss. After all, your ears just work, right? And you don’t have to think about it to make them work. So, most people just don’t have reason to think about it.
Like most of your senses, hearing requires a means of collecting stimuli and a method of delivering the data from those stimuli to the brain for processing. Your ears act as a funnel to collect sound waves in your environment and then both amplify and transform those sound waves into an electrical signal that can be processed by your brain. This process involves the outer ear, called the pinna; the ear canal; the middle ear, which is made of the ear drum and the ossicular bones; the inner ear, or cochlea; and the auditory nerve and brain. Along the way, the ear drum converts sound waves into mechanical energy, the stapes and cochlea convert the mechanical energy into hydraulic energy, and the cilia in the cochlea converts the hydraulic energy into electrical energy, which is finally processed by the auditory cortex in the brain.
A Matter of Physics
Sounds are formed anytime an object creates a vibration. These vibrations are called sound waves and they happen at a molecular level in every substance that has matter and mass. A good way to visualize this is to drop a pebble in a pond and watch the waves it creates. As mentioned above, the ear collects these sound waves in order to amplify and transform them into signals in the brain.
Generally speaking, the less complicated the sound environment, the easier it will be for the brain to sort through the sound waves available. In a small quiet room, there is very little interference from other sources of sound waves, there are fewer barriers to sound wave transmission, and the sound waves don’t have to travel very far to the ear. This is an ideal situation for hearing. The larger the space, the more sources of interfering background noise, the farther away you are from a reflective surface, the harder it will be to hear, even with normal hearing. Imagine again the pond and the pebble. The sound waves are a lot easier to “see” in a small pond with just a few pebbles than they are in an ocean during a rain storm.
Hearing aids cannot change the physics of environmental sound. There are certain properties to background noise, such as frequency ranges and harmonic patterns, that a hearing aid processor can be programmed to reduce, but it doesn’t work like a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Those headphones have a distinct signal input from an audio device and a distinct sound pattern for the noise collected through a microphone. The headphones produce an inverse sound wave that cancels the noise. With hearing aids, the signal is mixed in with the noise and there’s no way to produce that inverse sound wave.
Mucking Up the Works
When hearing loss occurs, something happens to the anatomy of the ears and brain that causes the sound wave conversion and amplification process to not work the way it’s supposed to work. One of the most common problems is that the cilia in the cochlea, the part of the hearing that sends those electrical signals to your brain, begin to die. This is called sensorineural hearing loss. It is nerve damage and it is permanent.
This kind of hearing loss also often involves an issue with sound clarity in addition to the inability to detect certain sounds. In the case of someone who has those sound clarity issues, something is happening in the brain that causes the electrical signals that the brain receives to become garbled and distorted. When a person is experiencing this distortion, simple amplification of sound doesn’t help as much as you might think. After all, making a garbled sound louder does not improve its clarity. Since the distortion is actually happening in the brain, it is different for each person who experiences it and it cannot be easily measured or quantified, making compensation practically impossible.
So What Can I Do?
There are small things that you can do while you are speaking to make it easier for your loved one to understand you. Slow down and speak clearly; don’t shout! Shouting only distorts your speech. Rather than repeating a misunderstood word or phrase to the point of frustration, use different phrasing to avoid that misunderstanding. Make sure that you’re not speaking with your mouth full or obstructing your mouth with your hand or another object.
The best thing that can be done to help someone who has sound clarity and processing issues is to make the listening environment as simple as possible. First, turn off all potential sources of interfering noise. If it can’t be turned off, then turn it down or adjust its position to minimize the interference. Get on the same level as the person with the hearing loss and face them so you can speak directly to them. Move closer to them and stay within 4 to 6 feet. Never walk away from them while you’re talking or try to talk to them from another room in the house. Small environmental changes can do a lot to assist someone who is having trouble understanding speech.
It’s very important to remember that hearing loss is a permanent impairment and the goal of any hearing loss treatment process is to make the most of an individual’s remaining hearing. In even a best-case scenario, there are limitations to what hearing technology can do as far as speech enhancement and background noise reduction in very complex listening situations. No matter how much the technology advances, no matter how far it develops or how sophisticated it gets, it will never be a replacement for the hearing that you or your loved one enjoyed had before the hearing loss. For more tips and tricks, feel free to visit our Communication Tips page, or Contact Us with any questions you may have.
There are many reasons why having a regular hearing test is a good idea, even if you have normal hearing. Hearing is our most important social sense; it is what allows us to communicate with one another and connect with our friends, families, and loved ones. A yearly test is particularly important if you have other disorders which have been identified as possible causes of hearing loss, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a history of certain infections, particularly in childhood.
Hearing loss has also been identified as a risk factor for other disorders, particularly disorders that affect cognitive health. Four of these disorders are particularly important as a person continues to age:
Dementia – Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently found that individuals who have untreated hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia time than those people who seek early treatment for their hearing loss. This relationship could be due to a number of factors, such as social isolation, increased cognitive strain or a similar underlying pathology.
Brain Atrophy – This study was released by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that brain volume decreased among patients with untreated hearing loss, a condition that made it more difficult for those particular subjects to understand complex sentences.
Depression – In 1999, a National Counsel on Aging survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
Risk of Falling – Though some people have issues with their hearing that involve their vestibular (balance) function, this study looks more at the direct nature between even a so-called mild hearing loss and fall risk. All other risk factors aside, a person with hearing loss is three times more likely to fall, and that risk increases dramatically as the hearing loss progresses.
These are just a few of the ways in which even a so-called mild hearing loss can affect a person’s lifestyle on a larger scale. A yearly hearing test, particularly for those patients with risk factors for hearing loss, can help insure that treatment is sought for the hearing loss when it is needed. Also, yearly tests can serve as valuable tools to monitor the progression of hearing loss over time, allowing any hearing aid prescribed to be appropriately fit to an individual’s hearing needs.
To schedule your yearly or baseline hearing test, call us today for an appointment. Our Four-Step Process is centered around discovering your individual hearing and listening needs, even if you just need a baseline examination. We have appointment times available Monday thru Friday, so we’re sure to have one that’s perfect for your busy schedule. Let us help you keep on top of your hearing health needs!
Nov. 14, 2011. About one in five Americans ages 12 and older suffer from hearing loss that’s severe enough to make communication difficult, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found.
About 30 million Americans, or 13 percent of the population, have hearing loss in both ears, and 48 million, or 20 percent, in at least one ear, according to a study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine. That exceeds previous estimates, which put the number of people with hearing loss at 21 million to 29 million, the researchers said.
The study also found that hearing loss doubled every decade of life. Deficient hearing has been linked to a greater risk of dementia, poor cognitive function and falling in the elderly, said lead study author Frank Lin, an assistant professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The impact of hearing loss on the aging isn’t “inconsequential” and should be treated, he said.
“If you have poor hearing, your brain almost has to work harder to decode and process sound,” said Lin in a Nov. 11 telephone interview. “If you brain is having to reallocate resources to hearing, it probably comes at the expense of cognition or thinking ability.”
Researchers in the study used data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys from 2001 to 2008 for all participants ages 12 and older who had their hearing tested over that period. The survey is thought to be representative of the U.S. population.
Worse With Age
For those in their 40s, about 2.8 million suffer from hearing loss in both ears and 5.6 million have the condition in at least one ear. That number jumped to 8.8 million for people in their 70s who had hearing loss in both ears and 10.8 million for those who had hearing loss in at least one ear, the study showed.
Women and black people were less likely than other groups to suffer from hearing loss, the study found. Lin said estrogen may be protective of hearing and the same cells that make skin dark may also play a role in preventing hearing loss.
Today’s study “gives us the real scope of the problem for the first time and shows us how big of a problem hearing loss really is,” Lin said in a statement. By Nicole Ostrow
Last year was a big year for hearing studies, particularly as hearing health relates to mental health. We saw multiple studies that linked untreated mild hearing loss to disorders such as dementia and brain atrophy. A new study was just released that offered a bit of positive news: hearing aid use may actually increase self-esteem.
The study, conducted by Hear the World, showed that a majority of hearing aid users experience better overall mental fitness than people who allow their hearing loss to go untreated. Quality of life, intimacy, personal confidence, even insomnia tend to improve for people who wear hearing aids. And when you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Our hearing is our most important social sense; it’s the principle component of how we communicate with one another. To quote Helen Keller, hearing loss “means the loss of the most vital stimulus — the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”
One of the most important things that we do at Advanced Hearing is work with our patients to restore their quality of life where their hearing loss interferes. It isn’t a surprise for us to see the results of this study. We see the importance of better hearing everyday in our patients. It’s our biggest passion and our greatest privilege. To experience the difference better hearing can make, call us today.
It’s coming. 2011 is almost over and 2012 is on its way. As the new year approaches, it’s a great time to begin the journey toward better hearing. Here are four great reasons to start today:
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. A common phenomenon, especially among those who let their hearing loss go untreated, is called phonemic regression. Simply put, phonemic regression is when we find a loss of speech discrimination that isn’t proportional to the person’s pure tone thresholds. The most common symptom of this is being able to hear that someone is speaking but simply not being able to understand what is being said, something we call a Sound Void. This is a very frustrating situation, as the problem is not a simple matter of volume. In some cases, phonemic regression could have been prevented simply by wearing hearing aids earlier.
Keep your brain sharp! In February, John’s Hopkins University released a startling study that linked untreated hearing loss to the development of dementia in elderly populations. While the exact nature of this link remains a bit of a mystery, it is well known that social isolation contributes to dementia. One of the biggest contributing factors to this kind of isolation is the inability to hear well enough to enjoy getting out and being active.
New technology provides superior sound quality and satisfaction. The king of hearing aids is no longer that big ear plug that your father or grandfather wore (or refused to wear, as the case may have been). There are many styles available for nearly every budget that are designed to treat nearly every type of hearing loss. The possibilities are all but endless, and so is our ability to help people with many different kinds of hearing loss.
Better hearing has never been easier! Our ultimate goal as hearing professionals is to reintroduce you to a world of sounds that you haven’t been hearing. Our Service Excellence Guarantee provides you with peace of mind knowing that we’ll have your back and make sure that you get the full value of your investment in better hearing. We offer a 75-day trial period, well beyond the 30 days required by state law, with a 100% refund if you’re not completely satisfied. We also offer extended warranties, in-office repairs and service, manufacturer repair if needed, and a wealth of knowledge to customize hearing solutions for every patient, all as part of our Service Excellence Guarantee. We will support you every step along your journey to better hearing.
To start your journey toward better hearing, call us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Through our 4-step process, we’ll learn about you and your better hearing goals, examine your ears for any defects or blockages, diagnose your hearing loss, and show you what we can do to help you hear better. Don’t wait to hear what you’ve been missing! Early treatment can make all the difference!
In observance of New Year’s Day, Advanced Hearing Care will be closed on Friday, December 31. We will return for normal office hours on Monday, January 2. Have a safe and happy New Year!
By: Bettie Borton, Au.D., FAAA
Doctor of Audiology
Doctors Hearing Clinic
Originally posted on the The Hearing Care Blog
WRONG! According to ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2011), mild hearing loss has now been linked to brain atrophy in older adults. [ … M]ore and more research is indicating strong correlation between failure to obtain or use hearing devices and increased problems with understanding speech and cognition.
We have all heard (or perhaps experienced) the complaint that despite the fact that speech is audible, it’s not understandable. “I hear but I can’t understand” is probably the most commonly voiced concern in my office. So, if someone has hearing loss, if your hearing aids make sounds louder, why doesn’t that solve all hearing related issues? Well, like lots of things in life, it’s just not that simple.
A person’s audiogram (or those little blue X’s and red O’s on the graph of your responses to the “beeps”) tells us a lot, but it does not yield the whole story. Hearing thresholds (or the point at which someone is just barely able to detect sound across the frequency range) are certainly important, but don’t give much information regarding how well someone will understand when speech sounds are made sufficiently loud. Word recognition testing, with and without noise, provides additional information regarding this capability, and as a by-product, an indirect measure of the distortional component inherent to sensorineural hearing loss.
We now have mounting evidence that those who have hearing loss, but fail to get and/or use hearing devices run the risk of depriving their auditory system of sufficient loudness, which in turn results in degradation of the mechanisms responsible for understanding speech. A new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray mater atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech. When any one of our senses (smell, taste, sight, hearing, or touch) is changed in some way, the brain reorganizes and adjusts. In the case of those with hearing loss, researchers found that the gray matter density of brain in areas specific to hearing was lower in people with decreased hearing ability, suggesting a link between hearing ability and brain volume.
So, use it or lose it may be the prevailing philosophy. Take heart (and USE those instruments that you have!) According to this study, early intervention for hearing loss with the consistent use of amplification can slow the progression of speech comprehension difficulty. “As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain,” said lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, research associate in the Department of Neurology. “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”
In two recent research studies, researchers measured the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain, first measuring the brain’s response to increasingly complex sentences and then measuring cortical brain volume in auditory cortex. Results indicate that older adults (60-77 years of age) with normal hearing for their age were evaluated to determine whether normal variations in hearing ability impacted the structure or function of the network of areas in the brain supporting speech comprehension.
The studies found that people with hearing loss showed less brain activity on functional MRI scans when listening to complex sentences. Poorer hearers also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, suggesting that areas of the brain related to auditory processing may show accelerated atrophy when hearing ability declines.
In general, research suggests that hearing sensitivity has important consequences for neural processes supporting both speech perception and cognition. Although most the research has been conducted in older adults, the findings also have implications for younger adults, including those concerned about listening to music at loud volumes. “Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” says Dr. Peelle. “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but also helps your brain perform at its best.”
Physicians should monitor hearing in patients as they age, and everyone should have a baseline audiogram performed by a Board Certified Audiologist, looking specifically at speech recognition abilities even in the presence of normal hearing. Patients should talk to their physician or audiologist if they are experiencing any difficulty hearing or understanding speech. If your physician has not referred you for hearing evaluation, take action!