Could Brain Inflammation and Tinnitus Treatments Help Each Other?
Celebrating 35 years of Caring for Your Hearing
|Meredy Hase tests a child, 1987||Kupperman and Hase work to license audiologists in Wisconsin, 1989|
Hearing Loss UNDER Age 65
We used to think of hearing loss as something that only happened to our grandparents' generation. But you'd be surprised at how many people your age, and even younger, have a hearing problem.
According to a study recently published by the Better Hearing Institute, two-thirds of Americans with hearing loss are under the age of 65 and still in the work force. That includes one of every six "Baby Boomers" (ages 41 to 59) and one of every 14 "Generation X'ers" (age 29-40).
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "Hearing loss is by no means an 'old person's disease' any longer. Each day, we see people of all ages come into our offices concerned they may have a hearing problem.
"There's even solid evidence to support the fact that for working Americans, hearing loss impacts their ability to make a living, up to $12,000 in lost income per year." (See related article)
Dr. Hase urges anyone who thinks they, or a loved one, may have a hearing loss to contact The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services without delay.
Auditory Deprivation refers to the fact that even though we "hear" with our ears, it's our brain that's the true organ of hearing.
When hearing loss is left untreated, the brain's ability to distinguish various sounds becomes less and less. Try to think of Auditory Deprivation as similar, in a sense, to muscles that atrophy when not used over a long period of time.
The reason Auditory Deprivation is important is that we have ample evidence proving how long people will wait before seeking help for a suspected hearing loss. Up to ten years, by some estimates.
In other words, the longer you wait to get help for your hearing loss, the less even the most advanced hearing instruments will be able to help you hear better. That's one more reason physicians recommend annual hearing checks as part of an overall health assessment.
The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services can perform hearing screenings that take only a few minutes. Concerned individuals are urged to contact them at the first signs of hearing loss, such as an inability to understand conversations in a crowded room or having to turn up the TV volume in order to hear.
Hearing & Income Loss
After years of research, there is new evidence that links hearing loss and loss of income. A study released by the Better Hearing Institute in Alexandria, VA, proves that untreated hearing loss may impact household income by as much as $12,000 per year.
The study also shows that hearing loss, which affects more than 28 million Americans, two thirds of whom are still in the work force, results in an annual loss of more than $100 billion in wages and worker productivity. The good news is people who find help for their hearing loss can regain up to 50% of that lost income.
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "One of the misconceptions about hearing loss is that it's 'an old person's ailment'. But we know that hearing loss crosses all income lines and impacts people of all ages".
The new "Open Ear" Digital hearing instruments are especially designed to help Baby Boomers feel more comfortable about wearing hearing instruments.
Anyone interested in receiving a FREE Demonstration of Open Fit hearing technology are urged to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services.
Hearing Loss & the Family
For years, both researchers and hearing healthcare professionals have known much about the causes of hearing loss and how it affects the person who suffers from it.
But not until recently has attention been paid as to the devastating effects hearing loss has on family members and friends as well. This past year alone, several organizations have weighed in with their findings on this often overlooked medical problem that by current estimates, affects the lives and families of more than 30 million Americans.
For example, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a government agency whose task it is to research the lives of older Americans, released a study that confirms how often a person with hearing loss begins to feel isolated, eventually withdrawing from normal everyday activities and even from family and friends.
None of this is news, however, to Dr. Meredy Hase, who says, "I realized just how much hearing loss also affected family members when we''d spend so much time counseling them when we''d fit their loved one with hearing instruments".
The benefits of better hearing were the subject of an NBC report that aired on an installment of the NBC Nightly News. In that report, the testimonials of several patients and their families provided evidence of how lives can be changed for the good, once the decision has been made to seek help for a hearing problem.
Those interviewed talked about how experiences such as watching TV or enjoying conversations with loved ones - things that were not possible with hearing loss - were once again part of the everyday enjoyment of life. Social activities like dining at restaurants of going to the movies were also among the range of family life experienced through better hearing.
Thanks to recent advances in technology more help is available than ever before for those whose lives are affected by hearing loss. If left untreated, hearing loss will almost always become worse over time, another reason Dr. Hase urges people to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services if a hearing loss is thought to exist.
More Hearing Healthcare News
More than 50 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears that ranges from mildly annoying to severely debilitating, and no cure exists. Existing treatments help some people, but none seems to work for everyone. Hearing loss affects about 500 million people, and is a major risk factor for the condition.
In their new study, researchers found inflammation in a sound-processing region of the brain triggers evidence of tinnitus in mice that have noise-induced hearing loss. The discovery could lead to new treatments to silence the ringing for millions of sufferers.
TINNITUS ON THE BRAIN
Listening to loud noise over time can permanently damage hearing. Recent studies indicate that noise-induced hearing loss causes inflammation—the immune system’s response to injury or infection—in the brain auditory pathway. How it contributes to hearing loss-related conditions, such as tinnitus, however, is not well understood. Researchers examined neuroinflammation—inflammation in the nervous system—in the auditory cortex of the brain following noise-induced hearing loss and its role in tinnitus.
Their research shows mice with noise-induced hearing loss (under anesthesia) had elevated levels of molecules called proinflammatory cytokines and the activation of non-neuronal cells called microglia, two defining features of neuroinflammatory responses, in the primary auditory cortex in the brain.
The research also shows that the cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), a cell signaling protein (cytokine) involved in systemic inflammation, is necessary for noise-induced neuroinflammation, tinnitus, and synaptic imbalance (an altered pattern of signaling between neurons). When the researchers used a pharmacological drug to block the TNF-α, the mice no longer showed signs of tinnitus.
WORK LEFT TO DO
“People have found clues for the cause of tinnitus, but because many parallel components are involved, we would block one component, then we would have to block another, then another still,” says Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine-Tucson. Bao started examining the role of TNF-α in tinnitus in 2011 while at the University of California, Berkley. “Neuroinflammation seems to be involved in many of these components. We hope blocking neuroinflammation will give us better chance to block them all, thereby stopping the tinnitus.”
The findings suggest that neuroinflammation may be a therapeutic target for treating tinnitus and other hearing loss-related disorders.
“We have more work to do to confirm the mechanism that is causally linked to tinnitus and determine if the results translate to humans,” Bao cautions. “While promising, we still have a long way to go from research to patient care.”
Article originally appeared on Futurity.