Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Protiens tied to Usher Syndrom may be our Hearing's Missing Link..

Scientists with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, have identified protocadherin-15 as a likely player in the moment-of-truth reaction in which sound is converted into electrical signals. (Protocadherin-15 is a protein made by a gene that causes one form of type 1 Usher syndrome, the most common cause of deaf-blindness in humans.) The findings will not only provide insight into how hearing takes place at the molecular level, but also may help us figure out why some people temporarily lose their hearing after being exposed to loud noise, only to regain it a day or two later.

Full Article Here

This is HUGE! At least of third of all people with hearing loss can attribute it to Noise Induced Hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) accounts for about 90% of all hearing loss. If they can figure out how to harness these protiens or how to rebuild them, I might be out of a JOB! Haha! We have long known that small hair cells in the inner ear convert acoustical mechanical engergy into electrical signals through a process called mechanotransduction. But how this really works is kind of muddy, we don't fully understand how it all works. What we do know that sound enters our ears and vibrates the ear drum. This in turns sets the middle ear into motion and the bones of the middle ear vibrate the inner ear. The inner ear is filled with fluids and hair cells. The ripple effect caused by the vibration of the middle ear causes tiny structures on the hair cells to bump up against a membrane. These hair cells are arranged in layers, with each connected to the next by tiny threads of protien. These sets of cells are responsible for specific frequencies of sounds and together they form a channel. As these hair cells or stereocilia brush up against this membrane, tiny pores on the surface of the stereocilia open; letting potassium solutions rush in. This in turn produces a chemical reaction between these solutions and an electrical signal is sent up to our brain to be interperated as sound. The link that connects the tip of the shorter stereocilium to the side of the taller stereocilium must be present for that set of stereocilia to function. Scientists believe that the structure that connects the stereocilia together may be responsible for opening and closing the channel's gate - its way of sending that electrical signal up to the brain. If they can learn the exact makeup of this protien link, they'll be that much closer to understanding how the gate opens and closes. And possibly that much closer to a cure for sensorineural hearing loss. It seems that these protiens rebuild themselves, after a loud concert we can have a short shift in our hearing, but with in 24 hours we can hear normally again. The million dollar question though is why does this rebuilding of protiens stop with prolonged exposure to noise? Figure that out and you will make billions and put me out a job.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Baby boomers are ignoring their hearing loss

From the Houston Chronicle

Health experts have warned during the past few years that nearly half of U.S. baby boomers — as many as 38 million people born between 1945 and 1964 — are experiencing some degree of hearing loss, and at a more rapid pace than previous generations.

Health experts blame the situation on continual exposure to noise pollution, either on the job or in recreational pursuits. (Yes, that includes rock concerts, boomers.)

Click here for full story

Friday, June 16, 2006


Miss America 2005 speaks out for hearing loss

Story from

Deidre Downs grew up as a tomboy. Downs played sports, and had a loving, supportive family in Alabama. Downs also grew up with a hearing impairment.

“I started wearing hearing aids when I was in kindergarten, and I quit wearing them when I was 10 or 11 because I was teased,” Downs said.

Now as an adult, Downs takes a stand to try and get rid of the stigma that goes with hearing loss.

“People wear glasses and there’s really no stigma,” Downs said. “But hearing aids continue to be a real stigmatized handicap.”

Click here for Video of Miss America 2005 and the full Story

It is horrible that our children with hearing loss are teased or treated as different. They wear the aids to help them hear normally and you would think that doing so would help them to fit in more normally. But that is not the case. What is really sad is that not only do these kids have to deal with social and emotional problems because of wearing hearing aids; but also the negative impact hearing loss can have on their verbal language, reading, writing and overal academic performance. Kids with a loss often miss social clues; so without their aids they fit in even less. And they cannot listen and learn properlly--at least 10% of classroom instruction may be missed. Academic losses occur in children as early as kindergarten and first grade. Most children with losses begin to show real learning difficulty by the third grade. The symptoms of a hearing loss can even be mistaken for Attention Deficit Disorder. The problems are endless. These kids need help with their hearing and no one should make them feel different or unequal because of their hearing impairment. People like Miss America 05 are making great strides and need all the help they can get.


Revolutionary New Technology Emerging for the Hearing Impaired

This stuff is amazing. Hearing aids have come such a far way from the aids of the past. They still have a long way to go.. but there are companys out there really making some wonderful strides. Welcome to tomorrows hearing aids. They will integrate with your cell phone, maybe even your cars navigation system. They seek out speech; automatically elimiating background noises.. even learn the users patterns of wearing them. Oh wait. That is already here! Siemens recently released a new line of hearing instruments, the Centra. Its pretty amazing. Here is what says about it:

"These new hearing aids from Siemens are full of high tech features, as they seem to be powered by more advanced electronics than your typical iPod: The Centra™, from Siemens Hearing Instruments, is the first ever hearing aid that automatically adjusts to the user's preferences in a variety of different environments, offering unparalleled performance"...

"Centra 'learns' user volume preferences in different hearing situations and then automatically fine-tunes itself for optimum hearing. Centra combines this DataLearning technology with other exclusive features, such as SoundSmoothing™ and ear-to-ear wireless™ technology, making it the most advanced hearing solution available"....

"It helps deliver unmatched listening comfort and speech intelligibility in noisy situations."

Just wait until hearing aids interact with your Ipod.. it's comming I'm sure.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Hearing Loss - The Preventable Kind

Hearing loss comes in many forms and comes from a variety of causes. Some of it avoidable-some of it not. Noise induced hearing loss is the largest group of hearing impairment and it is unique in the fact that it is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately once exposed to very loud noises, the damage is done. The good news is that Noise Induced Hearing Loss is preventable by avoiding noises loud enough to do the damage. What is too loud? Anything that causes you discomfort, or if it is loud enough to prevent normal conversation, makes you have to shout to be heard, or causes a ringing sensation in your ears.

With the increase in popularity of devices such as portable cd players and mp3 players-there
is a large increase in people with hearing loss in their 30s and 20s and as young as their teens. With hearing loss being such a impairment; it is important that we educate ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren about the preservation of our natural hearing and protecting ourselves from exposure to loud noises. This means turning down volume, getting out of loud enviroments, and not being too proud to wear ear protection when we really need to.

What is too Loud?

30dB a whisper

60dB Conversation


90dB Lawn Mower

115dB Rock Concert

140dB Jet Engine

170dB Shotgun blast

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Duke study finds hearing aids underused

DURHAM, N.C., June 5 (UPI) -- A Duke University study suggests hearing aids are underused, with only 1-in-5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually owning one.

Although hearing loss can contribute to strained relationships with family and friends, depression and even a deterioration of basic well-being, of the 1-in-5 owning a hearing aid, only one-third use them....

The Duke scientists suggest hearing aids are being underused, in part, because of social attitudes reflecting misunderstandings about hearing loss, including the belief that hearing loss is inevitable later in life.

For full story click here.

This article is so true. I see so many people in my office that have hearing loss and decide for one reason or another to do nothing about it. I also see people who come in and even after testing refuse to belive that they have a problem. There is a reason that on the average the amount of time a person waits to get help with their hearing is 15 years.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Education Key to Prevention

According to the NIDCD 30 million americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis. Exposure occures in the workplace, in recreation, and even in the home. Of the 28 million people who have hearing loss at least a third of those can attribute the loss to exposure to noise. The real tragedy though is that Noise Induced Hearing Loss is preventable. With a couple simple steps, this form of hearing loss could totally be avoided. Avoid the noise, turn down the volume, or wear ear plugs.

As much as people hate admitting that they need help hearing and as much as people hate wearing hearing aids; why do they hate wearing ear plugs so much? I find it so ironic. If we are ever to remove the stigma of wearing ear plugs and perserving our hearing; I believe education is key.

Last week I was able to share a video about hearing health with a group of second grade children at the local Boys and Girls Club. I had previously screened the video with my 11 year old daughter. She said it wasn't too cheesy. After watching the video last week; I asked the kids how they enjoyed it. One little girl said that she had seen a video at school about her ears and hearing and that it was "soooo boring". They actually enjoyed and more importantly learned from the video I had brought. I think it is great that there are groups out there that are starting to produce educational pieces that attract the kids and focus their attention. Both entertaining and educating these kids on how important their hearing health is.

One such group making strides in this area is the ASHA. Recently in its campaign to conserve hearing by promoting safe usage of popular technology; the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association introduced the "Buds," two cartoon earbud characters who provide safety tips for children, their parents, and other adults. You can meet the Buds @; an interactive web site that features fun, free, and downloadable items featuring the Buds. The web site includes screen savers, bookmarks, and posters. All items feature the Buds and the "Rules of Thumb," simple safety guidelines which encourage kids to do things such as lower the volume and limit listening time. This is a step in the right direction.

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