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Study points to possible new therapy for hearing loss

Researchers have taken an important step toward what may become a new approach to restore hearing loss.

In a new study, out today in the European Journal of Neuroscience, scientists have been able to regrow the sensory hair cells found in the cochlea - a part of the inner ear - that converts sound vibrations into electrical signals and can be permanently lost due to age or noise damage.

Hearing impairment has long been accepted as a fact of life for the aging population - an estimated 30 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. However, scientists have long observed that other animals - namely birds, frogs, and fish - have been shown to have the ability to regenerate lost sensory hair cells.

"It's funny, but mammals are the oddballs in the animal kingdom when it comes to cochlear regeneration," said Jingyuan Zhang, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Department of Biology and a co-author of the study. "We're the only vertebrates that can't do it."

Research conducted in the lab of Patricia White, Ph.D., in 2012 identified a family of receptors - called epidermal growth factor (EGF) - responsible for activating support cells in the auditory organs of birds. When triggered, these cells proliferate and foster the generation of new sensory hair cells. She speculated that this signaling pathway could potentially be manipulated to produce a similar result in mammals. White is a research associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and lead author of the current study. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, October 15, 2018 (retrieved October 17, 2018)


Hearing and visual aids linked to slower age-related memory loss

Hearing aids and cataract surgery are strongly linked to a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline, according to new research by University of Manchester academics.

According to Dr Piers Dawes and Dr Asri Maharani, cognitive decline- which affects memory and thinking skills- is slowed after patient's hearing and sight are improved.

The rate of decline was halved following cataract surgery and was 75% less following the adoption of hearing aids.

The research on cataract surgery - which is published in PLOS ONE today- was carried out using 2,068 individuals who underwent cataract surgery between Wave 2 and Wave 6 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing survey from between 2002 to 2014.

They were compared with 3,636 individuals with no cataract surgery.

And the research on hearing aids, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Societylast month, was carried out using 2040 participants in the American Health and Retirement survey from 1996 to 2014

Both surveys assess cognitive decline by testing memory, asking participants to recall 10 words immediately and then at the end of the cognitive function module.

The researchers compared the rates of decline before and after the patients had surgery or started wearing a hearing aid.

Dr Dawes said: "These studies underline just how important it is to overcome the barriers which deny people from accessing hearing and visual aids.

Source: EurekAlert, October 11, 2018 (retrieved October 15, 2018)


Familiar voices are easier to understand, even if we don't recognize them

Familiar voices are easier to understand and this advantage holds even if when we aren't able to identify who those familiar voices belong to, according to research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research from Western University's BrainsCAN initiative showed that even though participants were not able to recognize their friend's voice when the resonance of their voice was manipulated, they still found it easier to understand than the same words spoken by a stranger.

"Our findings demonstrate that we pick out different information from a voice, depending on whether we're simply trying to recognize whether it's our friend or family member on the phone or whether we're trying to understand the words they're saying," says researcher Emma Holmes of UCL (University College London), first author on the study. "This shows we focus on different parts of speech sounds for different purposes."

Holmes and Western University coauthors Ingrid S. Johnsrude and Ysabel Domingo are interested in understanding the factors that influence how we perceive others' voices across a variety of contexts. Anyone who has tried to hold a conversation in a bustling office or a crowded restaurant knows how difficult it is to understand what someone is saying when it competes with background noise. In previous work, the researchers found that familiarity offers an advantage in these noisy situations, making the voices of friends and family easier to understand than the voices of strangers.

"This suggests that, over time, we must learn something about the voices of the people we frequently talk to, which helps us to better understand the words they're saying," Holmes explains. "For this study we asked: Why does being familiar with someone's voice help us understand what they're saying?" Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, October 1, 2018


October is National Protect Your Hearing Month

Take steps to protect your hearing

Did you know that sounds that are too loud for too long can damage your hearing permanently? The louder the noise, the faster it can damage your hearing. This October, during National Protect Your Hearing Month, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) encourages everyone to learn about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and steps you can take to prevent it.

Very loud noise, such as using firearms, can cause you to lose your hearing almost instantly. You can damage your hearing in less than 15 minutes at loud sporting events or concerts or when listening to music through headphones at high volume. If the noise is not as loud but lasts a long time, such as when using noisy yard or farm equipment, hearing damage can build more slowly.

NIHL can happen to anyone at any age. Up to 24 percent of American adults under age 70 may have hearing loss due to noise exposure in one or both ears. Other studies have suggested that 13 to 18 percent of U.S. teens have signs of possible hearing loss from noise. Continue reading

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, September 26, 2016


New AGS-NIA conference report explores links between senses and cognitive health

Experts at a prestigious medical conference hosted by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) hope their work--reported today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society--will have colleagues seeing eye-to-eye on an important but under-researched area of health care: The link between impaired vision, hearing, and cognition (the medical term for our memory and thinking capabilities, which are impacted as we age by health concerns like dementia and Alzheimer's disease).(1) With vision and hearing loss already affecting up to 40 percent of older adults(1)--and with one-in-ten older people already living with Alzheimer's disease(2)--the conference reviewed the current state of science regarding how these common health challenges might be connected, why the answer might matter, and what can be done to reduce sensory and cognitive impairments to preserve our health for as long as possible.

"As we live longer, we know that sensory and cognitive impairments will become more prevalent," said Heather Whitson, MD, MHS, Associate Professor of Medicine & Ophthalmology at Duke University Medical Center and one of the lead researchers for the AGS-NIA conference convened in 2017. "While we know a great deal about these impairments individually, we know less about how they are related--which is surprising, since impaired hearing and vision often go hand-in-hand and are associated with an increased risk for cognitive trouble." Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, September 24, 2018