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Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Original post from The Hearing Care Blog

human-ear-listening-hearing-263654721Diabetics at Greater Risk for Hearing Loss

People with diabetes are usually aware of their increased risk of kidney, cardiovascular, and visual disorders. However, most diabetics don’t know they are more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without the disease. And the risk is greater among younger diabetics than older.

Younger Diabetics at Greater Risk

A recent study in Japan was published in November 2012 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Led by Chika Horikawa, the team examined data from 13 previous studies published between 1977 and 2011. Their conclusion? Not only were diabetics 2.15 times as likely as others to have hearing loss, but those under age 60 had 2.61 times the risk while those over 60 had 1.58. In a related study by the National Institutes of Health, it was shown that more than 40% of people with diabetes had some degree of hearing loss.

Link Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

The link between diabetes and hearing loss is not yet fully understood. Some think that high blood sugar levels may damage the blood vessels in the ears. Others caution that certain medications commonly used by diabetic patients, such as diuretics, may be a contributing factor. Though more research is needed in order to understand the connection between diabetes and hearing loss, according to Horikawa, “these results propose that diabetic patients are screened for hearing impairment from an earlier age compared with nondiabetics,” particularly because untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia and depression. For more information regarding diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website.

Gloria Boms, AuD

About the Author

Gloria Boms, AuD has been a licensed audiologist since 1978. Dr. Boms began her professional career at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, NY where she specialized in pediatric audiology. She began working in private practice serving both children and adults in 1984, and her practice has been located in Great Neck since 1997. Dr. Boms is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, a Fellow of the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists, and a member of the American Auditory Society and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Noisy Toys 2012

From the American Tinnitus Association — Hold that thought before you buy that noisy toy for your kids or grandkids this year.  The Sight and Hearing Association has released its list of the noisiest toys of 2012, and chances are that noise-maker you’re looking at could cause hearing loss. Of 20 toys tested this year,  12  sounded  off  above  100  decibels  (dB),  which  can  damage  hearing  in  less  than  15 minutes.

The noisiest toys of 2012 can cause permanent hearing loss within 15 minutes of exposure.

Walking through the toy aisle at various stores, SHA selects toys that appear to be too loud for consumers. Once brought back to their office, a hand-held sound level meter is used to measure the sound produced from the speaker and 10 inches from the speaker of the toy. This, year, Mattel’s Talking Figure Buzz Lightyear was the leader among a dozen toys that literally went from infinity and beyond when it came to producing sound, blasting out at 111 dB. According to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, exposure to decibel levels at a close distance would cause hearing damage almost immediately. Exposure to noise levels above 85 dB for no more than eight hours is the federal threshold for hearing protection. SHA reminds consumers that hearing loss is cumulative and it typically does not happen from one event; it gradually happens over time and that is why it is important to protect hearing at a young age.

Toys are required to meet the acoustic standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials, which states that the sound-pressure level produced by toys shall not exceed 85 dB at 50 cm from the surface of the toy. “The problem with this standard is 50 cm is longer than the average arm length of an adult. We test toys based on how a child would play with them, not how an adult would play with them. If you watch a child playing with a noise-producing toy, you will see them hold it close to their ears or within their arms length, which is closer to 10 inches (25 cm)”, explains Kathy Webb, executive director of SHA.

Parents can do a few things to make it a little quieter this holiday season. SHA recommends testing the toy before you buy it. Webb says, “push buttons and rattle toys as you walk through the toy aisle and if a toy is too loud for you, it will be too loud for your child. Look for toys that have volume controls and if you must buy a noisy toy, or your child receives a noisy toy from a well-meaning family member, place clear packing tape over the speaker, it will reduce the sound level enough to make the toy ear-safe.” The University of Minnesota/Department of Otolaryngology confirmed in a study that was released in August 2012, that covering noise- producing toys with tape or glue will significantly reduce the noise level of a toy, making it safer for children.

Founded in 1939, Minnesota-based Sight & Hearing Association is dedicated to enabling lifetime learning by identifying preventable loss of vision and hearing. If consumers have a noisy toy to report, they can contact SHA at  reportatoy@sightandhearing.org.

Researchers Identify Genetic Mutation Responsible for Age-Related Hearing Loss

From HealthyHearing.com

In a nine-year study that was a collaboration between University of South Florida’s Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers were able to identify the first genetic biomarker for presbycusis. The genetic mutation carried by those who ultimately suffer from age-related hearing loss is linked to speech processing abilities in older people.

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.

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month – Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss

From the Better Hearing Institute

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.

New Research Links Hearing Aid Use to Improved Self-Esteem

Better hearing can make a big difference in your overall mental fitness.

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.

 

Better Hearing Institute – New Tinnitus eGuide

Ringing in the Ears
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source.

Washington, DC, December 19, 2011People suffering with tinnitus, commonly known as “ringing in the ears,” can find the latest information on their condition and methods for coping with it in the all-new authoritative eGuide, “Your Guide to Tinnitus,” the Better Hearing Insitute (BHI) announced today. Nearly 30 million Americans—or about 10 percent of the U.S. population—suffer from persistent, chronic tinnitus.

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source and is commonly described as a ringing, humming, buzzing, and/or cricket-like sound that is either constant or intermittent. Tinnitus can be heard in one ear, both ears, or in the head. Exposure to extreme noise is the leading cause of tinnitus, and people with tinnitus almost always have accompanying hearing loss. Tinnitus is currently the number one service-connected disability of returning military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“For many who suffer from it, tinnitus can be a source of endless torment and a continual drain on quality-of-life,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s Executive Director. “Yet most people who suffer from tinnitus don’t seek help. This free, easy-to-download eGuide can provide tinnitus sufferers with accurate, valuable information that will help them better understand and cope with their condition.”

“Your Guide to Tinnitus,” is the latest of seven eGuides for consumers published by  BHI on hearing-related topics. It is written by Richard Tyler, PhD, one of the country’s eminent authorities on tinnitus and the editor of three books on the topic, including The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus (Auricle Ink Publishers). Dr. Tyler is a professor in both the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

“Your Guide to Tinnitus” helps readers understand what tinnitus is; what causes it; different types of tinnitus; the impact tinnitus has on sufferers’ lives; the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss; current treatment options that make tinnitus more manageable; and actions people with tinnitus can take to help themselves.

The incidence of both tinnitus and hearing loss is expected to grow as baby boomers age, people continue to listen to portable music players at high volumes, and more soldiers return from combat.

“We need to raise awareness among people who suffer from tinnitus that there is help,” says Tyler. “Although there currently is no cure to eliminate tinnitus altogether, there are things that sufferers can do about it. This eGuide provides information on tried and proven therapies that have helped innumerable individuals reduce the impact that tinnitus has on their lives. I urge anyone with tinnitus to visit www.BetterHearing.org (under Tinnitus) and download the eGuide so they can begin to regain their quality of life.”

Other eGuides published and provided by BHI include “Your Guide to Better Hearing,” “A Guide to Your Child’s Hearing,” “Your Guide to Hearing Aids,” “Your Guide to Care and Maintenance of Hearing Aids,” “Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids,” and “Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids.”

More About Tinnitus
According to a recent BHI survey, four in ten people experience their tinnitus more than 80 percent of the time; slightly more than one in four describe their tinnitus as loud; and about one in five describe their tinnitus as disabling or nearly disabling.

The study also found that 13 million people report tinnitus but no hearing loss. According to Kochkin, this finding indicates that the population with hearing loss may be much larger than previously believed because tinnitus almost always co-occurs with hearing loss. It’s very likely that these individuals simply were aware of their tinnitus but not their hearing loss.

According to the study, people with tinnitus report that it most often affects their ability to hear (39%), concentrate (26%), and sleep (20%). Yet for many, tinnitus is even more pervasive. Twelve percent of respondents—or 3.6 million people when extrapolated to the general population—say their tinnitus affects leisure activities, social life, personal relationships, and emotional or mental health. Seven percent of respondents—or an estimated 2.1 million people nationwide—indicate that tinnitus affects their ability to work.

The BHI study findings were published in the November issue of Hearing Review. The findings were derived from a nationwide survey of 46,000 households. It is the largest study of its kind.

About BHI
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on “Discussion Forum,” and go to “Welcome!” to register.

It Doesn’t Really Matter If I Wear My Hearing Aids, RIGHT?

By: Bettie Borton, Au.D., FAAA
Doctor of Audiology
Doctors Hearing Clinic

Originally posted on the The Hearing Care Blog

Betty Borton, AuD., FAAA of Montgomery, AL

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!

The research cited above in this article appears in the latest edition of The Journal of Neuroscience and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Press Release: Patient Satisfaction and Hearing Technology

Hearing Aids Improve Quality of Life, Empower People with Hearing Loss to Stay Socially Active, New Study by Better Hearing Institute Finds

Patient Satisfaction is an important factor in a successful fitting.

September 2, 2011 — According to a comprehensive research study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), today’s technically advanced, sleekly designed hearing aids are helping people with hearing loss regain their quality of life and remain socially involved. In fact, eight out of ten hearing aid users say they are satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids. And 82 percent of hearing aid users would recommend hearing aids to their friends.

The findings of this nationally representative survey are both timely and encouraging—particularly given that an increasing number of Americans are suffering from noise-induced hearing loss at increasingly younger ages, oftentimes many years before retirement and even as early as their teens.

“This survey clearly reveals how dramatically people’s lives can improve with the use of hearing aids,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s Executive Director. “In this comprehensive study of more than 2,000 hearing aid users, we looked at 14 specific quality-of-life issues and found that today’s hearing aids are a tremendous asset to people with even mild hearing loss who want to remain active and socially engaged throughout their lives.”

The improvements that people saw in their quality of life as a result of their use of hearings aids were broad and varied. Nearly 70 percent of hearing aid users said their ability to communicate effectively in most situations improved because of their hearing aid. A little more than half said their hearing aids improved their relationships at home, their social life, and their ability to join in groups. And roughly forty percent noted improvements in their sense of safety, self-confidence, feelings about self, sense of independence, and work relationships. Between 25 and 33 percent of hearing aid users said they even saw improvements in their romance, sense of humor, cognitive skills, and mental, emotional, and physical health.

According to Kochkin, outdated notions about hearing aids pose a significant barrier that inhibits people from addressing their hearing loss. All told, public perception of hearing aids hasn’t kept pace with the new technologies and discreet designs of today’s modern devices. And unfortunately, these misperceptions are holding people back from improving their quality of life by addressing their hearing loss.

The BHI study bears out that 79 percent of people who do seek help and use hearing aids are satisfied with them, and 86 percent are satisfied with the benefit they derive from hearing aid usage.

What’s more, as hearing aid technologies advance, individuals are becoming even more satisfied. Consumers, for example, are more satisfied with mini-BTEs than ever before and report superior sound quality, cosmetics, and functionality in more listening situations. In fact, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids because they have become miniaturized and nearly invisible due to the fact that an ear-mold is no longer necessary.

Ninety-one percent of all hearing aid users surveyed are satisfied with the ability of their hearing aids to improve communication in one-on-one situations. And more than three in four are satisfied in small groups (85%), while watching television (80%), outdoors (78%), during leisure activities (78%), while shopping (77%), and while riding in a car (77%).
“Today’s hearing aids are about staying young, not growing old,” Kochkin explains. “People want to hold onto their vitality as they enter and move through middle-age. But when someone ignores a hearing loss—which oftentimes has progressed gradually over time as a result of repeated noise exposure—that individual unwittingly begins losing the very vitality they treasure. What this research shows, however, is that those who do face their hearing loss and use hearing aids are experiencing significant and satisfying improvements in their quality of life.”

Another important take-away from the study is that benefit received from the hearing aid, and quality of life improvements, were highly related to the quality of care provided by the hearing healthcare professional. Ideally, hearing health professionals will include testing in a sound booth; use probe microphones to verify the hearing aid fit; use an array of counseling tools to help people hear better and adapt to their hearing aids; and validate improvement in hearing associated with hearing aid use. To help consumers in purchasing hearing aids, and to guide them in what to look for in quality hearing healthcare, BHI has published a comprehensive publication entitled, “Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids,” which is available at www.betterhearing.org, within the “Hearing Loss Treatments” section under hearing aids.

The four-part BHI survey used the National Family Opinion Panel to assess consumer perceptions of the functionality of modern hearing aids; compared the new invisible mini-BTE hearing aids to traditional style hearing aids; asked respondents to share how their lives changed as a result of their hearing aids; and evaluated the role the hearing healthcare professional had on consumer success with hearing aids.

“If you want to keep your mind sharp and life complete, don’t leave hearing loss unaddressed,” Kochkin advises. “Protect your vitality and quality of life before they silently slip away and you find yourself isolated from the human experience.  The first step to preserving your future enjoyment in life is to make an appointment with a hearing health professional and get your hearing checked. Our research shows that millions are glad they did.”

About BHI

Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit at www.hearingcheck.org.

Advanced Hearing Care’s Continuing Commitment to Patient Satisfaction

At Advanced Hearing, we believe that this study is important and encouraging news. We firmly believe that it is our job to make sure that our patients are not just satisfied but absolutely delighted in their choice to invest in their better hearing. Don’t wait to hear what you’ve been missing! Call us today for an appointment and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!

Hearing Loss and Dementia?

Listening to Music in the Park
Does hearing loss interfere with your lifestyle?

A recent study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging suggests that there may be a link between hearing loss and the development of dementia in the elderly.  The report, published in February of 2011, states that people with hearing loss may be as much as five times more likely to develop dementia as people with normal hearing.  The greater the degree of hearing loss, the greater the chances of dementia.

The cause for the link between hearing loss and dementia is unclear and has not been studied in great detail.  There are several speculations, including that hearing loss can often lead to social isolation, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.  The exact nature of this link may continue to be a mystery as few researchers have studied how hearing loss affects cognitive brain function.

Whatever the cause for the relationship between hearing loss and dementia, the scientists report that their finding might offer hope for an intervention in the development of dementia.  Something as simple as hearing aids, a supplement to assist an aged or compromised auditory system, may delay or even prevent the onset and development of dementia.

This study affirms Advanced Hearing Care’s call to action to our patients.  Don’t wait for old age to hear what you’ve been missing.  Effective diagnosis and treatment of your hearing loss could be an easy way to keep dementia or other cognitive impairments at bay.  Call today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!