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Ground-Shaking Noise Rocks N.F.L., and Eardrums Take Big Hit

National Football League teams are racing this season to secure the title of loudest outdoor stadium in the world. The Seattle Seahawks, who boast that their fans caused a small earthquake after a 2011 touchdown, acclaimed their crowd’s record 136.6-decibel noise level this September after an effort orchestrated by the fan group Volume 12.

Four weeks later, the Kansas City Chiefs — who are still unbeaten — topped the record, in part because of a scream-a-thon organized by the fan group Terrorhead Returns.

“Be LOUD AND PROUD and blow my eardrums out!” one Chiefs fan wrote on Facebook.

The N.F.L. encourages the din.

noise-articleLarge“Fans know they are going to a football game and not searching for a book at a library,” said Brian McCarthy, an N.F.L. spokesman.

But all that noise can come with a serious cost. With peaks for touchdowns and troughs at timeouts, the average volume during an N.F.L. game is probably in the mid-90-decibel range, said Elliott Berger, an acoustical engineer at 3M, which makes protective hearing devices.

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AARP: Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia

imagesIt really doesn’t seem fair: Hearing loss, a troublesome fact of life for more than 26 million people over 50, may increase the risk of cognitive problems and even dementia.

“The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Frank Lin, M.D., an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. But recent findings, he says, suggest that it may play a much more important role in brain health than we’ve previously thought.

Fortunately, there’s a potential upside. If this connection — shown in several recent and well-regarded studies — holds up, it raises the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia. Lin and other researchers have several theories about the possible cause of the link between hearing and dementia, although they aren’t yet sure which of them — if any — will hold true.

Lin is the author of several recent studies pointing to a link between hearing and cognitive problems ranging from mild impairment all the way to dementia.

In a 2013 study, he and his colleagues tracked the overall cognitive abilities (including concentration, memory and planning skills) of nearly 2,000 older adults whose average age was 77. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to have seen their cognitive abilities diminish. Essentially, the researchers say, hearing loss seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.

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Kansas State University: Research leads to successful restoration of hearing

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MANHATTAN — The sounds of success are ringing at Kansas State University through a research project that has potential to treat human deafness and loss of balance.

Philine Wangemann, university distinguished professor of anatomy and physiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and her international team have published the results of their study in the July issue of the journal PLOS Genetics: “SLC26A4Targeted to the Endolymphatic Sac Rescues Hearing and Balance in SLC26A4 Mutant Mice.”

“When the SLC26A4 gene is mutated, it leads to a loss of pendrin expression, which causes swelling of the inner ear and loss of hearing and balance,” Wangemann said. “In my research, I have been interested in how the inner ear functions. We worked on the idea that if you keep one domino in the chain standing, then the others would continue to stand and function normally. In other words, if we could restore the proper expression of pendrin in the endolymphatic sac and thereby prevent swelling of the sac, this may prevent swelling of other parts of the inner ear and rescue hearing and balance.”

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Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament Demonstrates the Consequences of Untreated Hearing loss

ludwingBeethoven2Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of the most influential composers of all time, started to lose his hearing in his late-twenties and as a result, although he continued to compose, distanced himself from friends and family. At the age of 32, following bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, he wrote the following letter – now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament – to be opened by his brothers after his death, in which he explains his anti-social behaviour and affliction. Curiously, he chose not to write his brother Johann’s name anywhere in the letter, instead leaving blank spaces.

Beethoven died 25 years later.

Translated Transcript

For my brothers Carl and [Johann] Beethoven

Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you. From childhood on, my heart and soul have been full of the tender feeling of goodwill, and I was even inclined to accomplish great things. But, think that for six years now I have been hopelessly afflicted, made worse by senseless physicians, from year to year deceived with hopes of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible).

Though born with a fiery, active temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was soon compelled to isolate myself, to live life alone. If at times I tried to forget all this, oh, how harshly was I flung back by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing. Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, “Speak Louder, shout, for I am deaf”. Oh, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed. – Oh I cannot do it; therefore forgive me when you see me draw back when I would have gladly mingled with you.

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Stanford University: Hearing loss from loud blasts may be treatable, researchers say

John Oghalai

John Oghalai

Long-term hearing loss from loud explosions, such as blasts from roadside bombs, may not be as irreversible as previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Using a mouse model, the study found that loud blasts actually cause hair-cell and nerve-cell damage, rather than structural damage, to the cochlea, which is the auditory portion of the inner ear. This could be good news for the millions of soldiers and civilians who, after surviving these often devastating bombs, suffer long-term hearing damage.

“It means we could potentially try to reduce this damage,” said John Oghalai, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and senior author of the study, published July 1 in PLOS ONE. If the cochlea, an extremely delicate structure, had been shredded and ripped apart by a large blast, as earlier studies have asserted, the damage would be irreversible. (Researchers presume that the damage seen in these previous studies may have been due to the use of older, less sophisticated imaging techniques.)

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The Hearing Journal: Noise-Induced Tinnitus Linked to Lower Potassium Channel Activity

New research has identified a particular cellular mechanism associated with the induction of tinnitus in an animal model, representing an important step forward in the effort to better understand and treat this common auditory disorder.

“What had been known from others and our work is that once mice are exposed to loud sounds, some of them develop tinnitus, and the ones that develop tinnitus have hyperactive auditory systems,” said Thanos Tzounopoulos, PhD, senior author of the study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“We wanted to figure out the cellular mechanism that leads to this hyperactivity,” said Dr. Tzounopoulos, who is associate professor of otolaryngology and neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

In the study, 51.4 percent of 35 mice exposed to noise showed behavioral evidence of tinnitus. Using brain slices that contained the dorsal cochlear nucleus—an auditory brainstem nucleus previously implicated in tinnitus induction—Dr. Tzounopoulos and colleagues showed a reduction in KCNQ potassium channel activity in mice with tinnitus compared with control mice and mice who did not develop tinnitus after noise exposure. This decreased activity was restricted to the same regions that showed tinnitus-specific hyperactivity—those sensitive to high-frequency sounds.

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Men Should Address Hearing Loss to Stay Active and Remain Professionally Engaged

healthy-man

WASHINGTON – Hearing health affects a man’s lifestyle, and if he wants to stay active, feel younger, and remain socially and professionally engaged, he should address any hearing loss he may be experiencing. This is the overriding message that the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is delivering to men around the country in support of National Men’s Health Week, which leads up to and includes Father’s Day. This year, National Men’s Health Week runs from June 10 through June 16.

To help men address their hearing health and determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional, BHI is offering the free, quick, and confidential online BHI Hearing Check at www.hearingcheck.org.

Studies show that men who address their hearing loss—with the use of hearing aids or other appropriate treatment and accommodations—most often improve their quality of life because it helps them maintain a more engaged, active lifestyle at both work and home. Fortunately, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, eight out of ten hearing aid users say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids.

For decades, research has shown an association between unaddressed hearing loss and a whole range of physical, mental, and emotional conditions—from depression, anxiety, and strained relationships to cognitive decline, difficulty learning new tasks, and even falling. A national BHI study, in fact, uncovered income loss as an under-recognized consequence of leaving hearing loss unaddressed. People with untreated hearing loss, the study found, lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. But the use of hearing aids was found to reduce the risk of income loss dramatically—by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those whose hearing loss was severe to moderate. The study also found that people with severe hearing loss who do use hearing aids are twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use them.

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Hearing Loss Is On The Rise In Teens

teenhearingRocking a pair of pricey earbuds? Well, there’s no shame in being excited, but don’t celebrate by cranking that sound up. You could bust the delicate circuitry in that noggin of yours.

Studies show that young people ages 11 to 19 are increasingly experiencing some sort of hearing impediment. According to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as many as one in five teens are afflicted. And that’s not all. The scientists, who have been tracking adolescent hearing since 1988, have noticed a whopping 31 percent rise in hearing loss.

If this goes unchecked, we’re looking at some pretty severe consequences. One look at the Baby Boomer generation is all it takes to see that. Affliction rates in boomers are fast approaching the half-way mark, with roughly 44 percent showing signs of significant hearing loss by age 69. That’s nearly one out of every two people requiring a Miracle Ear or some other hearing aid.

According to Randy Judson, AuD, clinical director of audiology services at the New York Ear and Eye Infirmary, hearing loss falls into three categories: The first is conductive (CHL), which is usually due to issues in the middle ear, like a ruptured eardrum, water, ear infection or abnormal hearing bones. Then there’s sensorinueral, or noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This comes from nerve problems which can stem from exposure to loud noises, certain medications, genetics and aging. The third type is a combination of the first two.

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The Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists Launches Informative Tool for May Month

MayMonthThe month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness on the impact of communication disorders and ways to prevent and treat communication disorders.

The Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA), a national body that supports and represents the professional needs of speech-language pathologists, audiologists and supportive personnel, recently launched an informative website to help Canadians learn about the importance of communication in our every day lives. One of the tools on this website is an info graphic which outlines the value hearing aids can have on an individual, a household, and society as a whole.

The educational info graphic touches on the social, health, and economic implications of not correcting your hearing. Using empirical data, CASLPA highlights how crucial it is for Canadians to begin taking their hearing loss seriously by visiting an audiologist.

For more information on this info graphic please click here.