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Wednesday
Feb132019

With age comes hearing loss and a greater risk of cognitive decline

But study suggests higher education might counter effects of milder hearing impairment

 

Hearing impairment is a common consequence of advancing age. Almost three-quarters of U.S. adults age 70 and older suffer from some degree of hearing loss. One unanswered question has been to what degree hearing impairment intersects with and influences age-related cognitive decline.


In a new study, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that hearing impairment is associated with accelerated cognitive decline with age, though the impact of mild hearing loss may be lessened by higher education.

A team of scientists, led by senior author Linda K. McEvoy, PhD, professor in the departments of Radiology and Family Medicine and Public Health, tracked 1,164 participants (mean age 73.5 years, 64 percent women) in the longitudinal Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging for up to 24 years. All had undergone assessments for hearing acuity and cognitive function between the years 1992 to 1996 and had up to five subsequent cognitive assessments at approximately four-year intervals. None used a hearing aid.

 

The researchers found that almost half of the participants had mild hearing impairment, with 16.8 percent suffering moderate-to-severe hearing loss. Those with more serious hearing impairment showed worse performance at the initial visit on a pair of commonly used cognitive assessment tests: the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Trail-Making Test, Part B. Hearing impairment was associated with greater decline in performance on these tests over time, both for those with mild hearing impairment and those with more severe hearing impairment.

 

However, the association of mild hearing impairment with rate of cognitive decline was modified by education. Mild hearing impairment was associated with steeper decline among study participants without a college education, but not among those with higher education. Moderate-to-severe hearing impairment was associated with steeper MMSE decline regardless of education level.

 

"We surmise that higher education may provide sufficient cognitive reserve to counter the effects of mild hearing loss, but not enough to overcome effects of more severe hearing impairment," said McEvoy.

Hearing impairment is a common consequence of advancing age. Almost three-quarters of U.S. adults age 70 and older suffer from some degree of hearing loss. One unanswered question has been to what degree hearing impairment intersects with and influences age-related cognitive decline. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, February 12, 2019

Thursday
Feb072019

Ohio State first to identify hearing and deaf infants process information differently

Differences in cognitive development between hearing and deaf children start in infancy, according to new research by The Ohio State University College of Medicine
While there is a growing body of research in preschool and school-age children that provides evidence of differences in cognitive abilities between deaf and hearing children, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center wanted to know when those differences emerge.

To do this, study co-authors Claire Monroy, post-doctoral otolaryngology fellow, and Derek Houston, associate professor of otolaryngology, became the first to compare visual processing skills in hearing and deaf infants. They found it takes longer for deaf infants to habituate or become familiar with new objects, which highlights a difference in how the infants process information, even when the information is not auditory in nature.

"This research lays the foundation for further exploration into the causes of these differences and their implications," said Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine.

When a baby successfully encodes a visual object, they lose interest and look away. To test their visual processing skills, researchers showed 23 deaf infants and 23 hearing infants ages 7 to 22 months a colorful object on a screen. Deaf infant looking times were 30 seconds longer than hearing infants and the deaf infant look-away rate was approximately 40% lower than hearing infants.

"This is somewhat counterintuitive because a lot of people assume that deaf children compensate for their lack of hearing by being better at processing visual things, but the findings of the study show the opposite," Monroy said. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, February 6, 2019
Tuesday
Feb052019

Google releases Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier apps to improve Android for the hearing-impaired

Google's focus on making Android more accessible has been evident — it opened last year's I/O keynote with morse code input on Gboard. In addition to that, Android Pie brought with it an array of new accessibility features, letting motor-impaired users easily jump to nine common interactions on their phones. Today, the Android Accessibility team announced Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, two new apps that look to materially improve quality of life for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. The apps are currently being tested on the Play Store and will be pushed to all Pixel 3 users in the next update.

Live Transcribe
While Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has been around for a while, it has grown increasingly sophisticated over time through deep learning. These improvements have culminated in Live Transcribe, a new accessibility feature that's powered by Google Cloud, letting hearing-impaired users follow along with a conversation happening around them in real-time. You can read about the finer nitty gritties of this technology over at the Google AI blog. The app has been developed with help from Gallaudet University, the world's only university designed around the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. To give us some more insight, this video talks about the app's development and its effect on users' lives.

Sound Amplifier
First mentioned at Google I/O 2018, Sound Amplifier works like a hearing aid, boosting the volume of conversations happening around you. In situations with a lot of ambient noise, the app can help you focus on quiet sounds happening near you, like someone's voice. The level of amplification is adjustable through sliders, and the feature can be enabled through the accessibility menu on your phone.
You can download Sound Amplifier from the Play Store or APK Mirror. 

Source: Android Police, February 4, 2019
Tuesday
Jan292019

Exploring the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline

Eight-year study reveals association that may indicate early stage changes in cognition

Hearing loss affects tens of millions of Americans and its global prevalence is expected to grow as the world's population ages. A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital adds to a growing body of evidence that hearing loss is associated with higher risk of cognitive decline. These findings suggest that hearing loss may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and could provide insights for earlier intervention and prevention.

"Dementia is a substantial public health challenge that continues to grow. There is no cure, and effective treatments to prevent progression or reverse the course of dementia are lacking," said lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, MSc, a physician and epidemiologist in the Channing Division for Network Medicine at the Brigham. "Our findings show that hearing loss is associated with new onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early stage changes in cognition. These findings may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline." Continue reading

 

Source: EurekAlert, January 29, 2019

Friday
Jan252019

Sleep deprivation accelerates Alzheimer’s brain damage

Study in mice, people explains why poor sleep linked to Alzheimer’s

A slice of brain tissue from a person who died with dementia shows an elongated brown triangle – a toxic tangle of tau protein associated with Alzheimer's disease and brain damage. A study in mice and people from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that sleep deprivation causes tau levels to rise and tau tangles to spread through the brain, accelerating Alzheimer's brain damage.

Poor sleep has long been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers have understood little about how sleep disruptions drive the disease.

Now, studying mice and people, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that sleep deprivation increases levels of the key Alzheimer’s protein tau. And, in follow-up studies in the mice, the research team has shown that sleeplessness accelerates the spread through the brain of toxic clumps of tau ­– a harbinger of brain damage and decisive step along the path to dementia.

These findings, published online Jan. 24 in the journal Science, indicate that lack of sleep alone helps drive the disease, and suggests that good sleep habits may help preserve brain health.

“The interesting thing about this study is that it suggests that real-life factors such as sleep might affect how fast the disease spreads through the brain,” said senior author David Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology. “We’ve known that sleep problems and Alzheimer’s are associated in part via a different Alzheimer’s protein – amyloid beta – but this study shows that sleep disruption causes the damaging protein tau to increase rapidly and to spread over time.” Continue reading

Source: Washington University School of Medicine, January 24, 2019