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Study Shows Hearing Loss Marked by Protein Boom in Blood

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
 

Blood levels of a special protein found only in the inner ear spike after exposure to loud noise, UConn Health researchers report. The findings point the way to blood tests that could warn people at risk of hearing loss before they suffer serious damage.

Hearing loss can sneak up on people, slowly muffling the world, but only noticeable once the damage is done. Chronic exposure to loud noises can cause it, as can certain medications. Cisplatin, a cancer drug used to treat solid tumors, and gentamicin, an antibiotic effective against a wide range of bacterial infections, are both known to damage hearing as a side effect. But not all patients treated with them will develop hearing loss, and both of these drugs and others known to damage hearing are still prescribed when their potential benefits outweigh the risk. They are discontinued if hearing loss occurs.

UConn otolaryngologist Kourosh Parham wants to do better than that.

"Currently you can only identify hearing loss after it has occurred. Since there's no treatment for it, that's a devastating limitation," Parham says. He and colleagues at UConn Health are collaborating with French pharmaceutical company Sensorion to develop a blood test that can warn patients and their doctors of early damage to the inner ear, before hearing loss is noticeable.

Parham and his colleagues report in Hearing Research that levels of prestin, a protein found only in cells in the inner ear, rise sharply when those cells are damaged and start to die. Prestin is found specifically in outer hair cells. Outer hair cells serve as amplifiers. The prestin is a special protein that responds to sound waves, by expanding and contracting. It acts like a little muscle, and makes the cells appear to 'dance.' The dancing of the outer hair cells changes the shape of the membrane in the inner ear, amplifying the sound.

Because prestin is not found in any other part of the body, increased levels of prestin in the blood could indicate damage to the outer hair cells in the ear. And that is exactly what Parham and colleagues found, when they exposed rodents to very loud noises and then measured their blood levels of prestin. A similar finding was reported last year after mice were exposed to cisplatin.

The next step in the research is to test whether this happens to humans, too. But instead of exposing humans to loud noises, Parham's team wants to collaborate with cancer doctors who treat many patients with cisplatin. The patients can have their hearing and prestin levels tested before going on the drug, and then periodically during their treatment. Anyone whose blood levels of prestin spiked could be tested for early signs of hearing loss and switched to another anticancer drug. Partnering with the military, which often requires members to be regularly exposed to loud noises, is another potential path to putting the prestin test to use.