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Researchers Identify New Contributor to Age-Related Hearing Loss

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

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
 

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered a new potential contributor to age-related hearing loss, a finding that could eventually help doctors identify people at risk.

The auditory receptors of the inner ear, called hair cells, pick up sounds using a vibration-sensing antenna called the hair bundle. While much research into hearing loss has focused on the hair bundle, UVA's discovery spotlights the foundations those antennas stand on. The finding suggests that genetic predisposition can cause this "cuticular plate," as the foundation is known, to weaken over time. "We find that it [the cuticular plate] is important for the ability of the hair cells to detect sound but also for the overall vibrations that happen in the cochlea," said UVA researcher Jung-Bum Shin, PhD. "Defects in this cuticular plate appear to lead to progressive hearing loss."

Pioneering Exploration

Shin, of UVA's Department of Neuroscience, is one of the earliest explorers of the molecular composition of the cuticular plate. Until now, he said, scientists have largely lacked the tools to probe its workings. Shin and his team, however, found an innovative way to investigate what he called "the mechanical foundation on which the skyscrapers of the hair bundles are sitting."

By identifying a protein particular to the cuticular plate, the team determined that the gene Lmo7 is vital for the plate's long-term stability in mice. When the researchers blocked the gene's effects, the mice gradually developed age-related hearing loss. Without the Lmo7 protein, "the structure of the plate is not as strong as it should be," Shin said. "At some point, the system notices, leading to deterioration of overall function."

The study was conducted in mice, but Lmo7 is preserved in all vertebrates, which suggests that mutations in Lmo7 could lead to age-related hearing loss in humans. Other genes may also play a role, Shin suspects, as do many other factors. He noted that age-related hearing loss is a complicated condition because there are many contributors, from well-known ones such as exposure to loud noise to lesser-known ones such as consumption of certain drugs.

Sorting out the effects of these various factors is an important, if challenging, task. Shin can imagine doctors one day screening patients to determine their genetic risk. "Let's say you are 40 years old. You get your genome sequenced and learn that you carry genetic risk factors for age-related hearing loss," he said. "You could prepare yourself and minimize your other risk factors, and, at the first signs of hearing loss, you can get hearing aids fitted. We know that hearing loss contributes to dementia, for example. The earlier you act, the better you can counteract hearing loss and some of the devastating side effects."

For his next steps, Shin plans to continue looking into the effect of Lmo7, particularly with regard to how genetic risk intersects with other risk factors, such as exposure to harmful noise.

This study, led by Ting-Ting Du, a postdoctoral researcher in the Shin lab, was a collaborative effort with other laboratories at UVA, the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University.

Article originally appeared on Science Daily.