Sensory Cell Regeneration Proves Hopeful for Hearing Restoration
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
In an apparent first, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators have used genetic manipulation to regenerate auditory hair cells in adult mice. The research marks a possible advance in treatment of a leading cause of hearing loss in adults. The study appears today in the journal Cell Reports.
Loss of auditory hair cells due to prolonged exposure to loud noise, accidents, illness, aging or medication is a cause of long-term disability in adults worldwide. Certain chemotherapy agents can also damage hair cells, leaving some childhood cancer survivors at risk for hearing loss. Treatment has focused on electronic devices like hearing aids or cochlear implants because once lost, human auditory hair cells do not grow back.
"In this study, we looked to Mother Nature for answers and we were rewarded," said corresponding author Jian Zuo, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology. "Unlike in humans, auditory hair cells do regenerate in fish and chicken. The process involves down-regulating expression of the protein p27 and up-regulating the expression of the protein Atoh1. So we tried the same approach in specially bred mice."
By manipulating the same genes, Zuo and his colleagues induced supporting cells located in the inner ear of adult mice to take on the appearance of immature hair cells and to begin producing some of the signature proteins of hair cells.
The scientists also identified a genetic pathway for hair cell regeneration and detailed how proteins in that pathway cooperate to foster the process. The pathway includes the proteins GATA3 and POU4F3 along with p27 and ATOH1. In fact, investigators found that POU4F3 alone was sufficient to regenerate hair cells, but that more hair cells were regenerated when both ATOH1 and POU4F3 were involved.
"Work in other organs has shown that reprogramming cells is rarely accomplished by manipulating a single factor," Zuo said. "This study suggests that supporting cells in the cochlea are no exception and may benefit from therapies that target the proteins identified in this study."
The findings have implications for a phase 1 clinical trial now underway that uses gene therapy to restart expression of ATOH1 to regenerate hair cells for treatment of hearing loss.
ATOH1 is a transcription factor necessary for hair cell development. In humans and other mammals, the gene is switched off when the process is complete. In humans, ATOH1 production ceases before birth.
"This study suggests that targeting p27, GATA3 and POU4F3 may enhance the outcome of gene therapy and other approaches that aim to restart ATOH1 expression," Zuo said.
The research also revealed a novel role for p27. The protein is best known as serving as a check on cell proliferation. However, in this study p27 suppressed GATA3 production. Since GATA3 and ATOH1 work together to increase expression of POU4F3, reducing GATA3 levels also reduced expression of POU4F3. When the p27 gene was deleted in mice, GATA3 levels increased along with expression of POU4F3. Hair cell regeneration increased as well.
"Work continues to identify the other factors, including small molecules, necessary to not only promote the maturation and survival of the newly generated hair cells, but also increase their number," Zuo said.