Q1 Hearing Research Roundup


In the audiology world, it’s important to keep your ears and eyes open for the latest clinical research. Doing so ensures you are in the know about recent advancements and discoveries in the auditory system, patient care, technology, and other things that can grow your professional knowledge. At e3, we love delving into new research and sharing it with our customers, so we’ve put together a short list of interesting reads from the past few months.

Here are some noteworthy audiology research studies that were released in the first quarter of 2018:

World Hearing Organization predicts 900m people could suffer hearing loss by 2050 – March 9, 2018

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A jaw-dropping study released by the World Hearing Organization (WHO) forecasts that 900 million people worldwide could suffer from hearing loss by 2050. They attribute this number to a growing ageing population; the persistence of risks such as infections like measles, mumps, and rubella; the use of medicines that can harm hearing; and increased exposure to loud sounds through personal audio devices, and in entertainment venues and workplaces.

Neuroscientists from KU Leuven measure brainwaves to determine whether people understand what they hear – March 8, 2018

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Doctoral student Jonas Vanthorhout and Professor Tom Francart, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, have developed a technique that allows for more accurate diagnosis of patients who can’t actively participate in speech understanding tests. With this technique, the participants receive an auditory stimulus. From there, EEG is used to measure whether any brainwaves develop in response to the sound. It is believed to make it possible to objectively and automatically determine whether someone understands what is being said.

Hearing loss may be tied to memory loss for some – February 26, 2018

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A preliminary study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting uncovered some people with a certain type of hearing loss may be more likely to also have mild cognitive impairment. Examining 1,604 participants with either peripheral or central age-related hearing loss, researchers found that those with central hearing loss were twice as likely as those without hearing loss to have mild cognitive impairment. In contrast, it was uncovered that those with peripheral hearing loss were no more likely than those without hearing loss to develop cognitive impairment.

Hearing loss is common after infant heart surgery – February 16, 2018

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Examining a group of 348 preschoolers who survived cardiac surgery, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found hearing loss in about 21 percent (20 times higher than is found in the general population). Potential risk factors associated with hearing loss were gestational age younger than 37 weeks, a confirmed genetic anomaly, and longer postoperative length of stay. The children with hearing loss also had lower scores on measures of language skills, cognition, and executive function and attention.

iPs cell-derived inner ear cells may improve congenital hearing loss – February 12, 2018

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A Japanese research group successfully grafted human iPS cell-derived inner ear cells that express human-derived proteins into the inner ears of embryonic mice. The results found that cell transplantation can compensate for missing CONNEXIN, and may improve hearing loss by adding properly functioning CONNEXIN proteins. The mice that received CONNEXIN 30 protein had a higher number of grafted cells than normal mice, strengthening the evidence behind cell transplantation as a treatment for hereditary hearing loss caused by CONNEXIN deficiency.

Visual cues amplify sound – February 12, 2018

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A University College London-led study uncovered that paying attention to visual cues such as lip movement can help amplify sound in noisy environments. The researchers were able to determine that when information from the eyes and ears is temporarily coherent, the auditory cortex boosts the relevant sounds that tie in with what we are looking at. It is hypothesized that this discovery could help develop training strategies for people with hearing loss, as it has had early success in helping people tap into their ability to link up sound and sight.

New images reveal how the ear’s sensory hairs take shape – February 8, 2018

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Researchers from A. James Hudspeth’s lab at the Rockerfeller University captured images identifying a molecule that coordinates the arrangement of tiny hair-like filaments in the inner ear. Although scientists already knew that a molecular blueprint guides the formation of the upside-down v-shaped bundles on the surface of inner ear cells, the team uncovered evidence implicating a protein called Daple is instrumental in drawing up these blueprints. To test this hypothesis, the team switched off this protein in mice, and ultimately found the mice developed scrambled bundles of hair-like filaments without the distinctive v shape when they lacked Daple.

Duke researchers find eye movement triggers ear drum movement – January 25, 2018

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Neuroscientists from Duke University conducted a study that found keeping the head still but shifting eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of sound. These findings, which were replicated in both humans and rhesus monkeys, provide new insight into how the brain coordinates what we see and hear. Moreover, it can lead to a new understanding of hearing disorders, such as difficulty following conversation in a crowded room.

Brain imaging predicts language learning in deaf children – January 15, 2018

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For a collaborative study, researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago created a machine learning algorithm that uses MRI brain scans to predict language ability in deaf children. Researchers involved believe that having this ability to forecast children at risk is a critical first step to improving outcomes. Although the current algorithm is built for children with hearing impairment, research is being conducted to also predict language development in other pediatric populations.

Specially timed signals ease tinnitus symptoms in first test aimed at condition’s root cause – January 3, 2018

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University of Michigan researchers report the use of an experimental device can help relieve tinnitus symptoms by targeting unruly nerve activity in the brain. The device, which was tested on both humans and animals, uses precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses that activate touch-sensitive nerves, both aimed at steering damaged nerve cells to normal activity. Human participants reported that after four weeks of daily use, the loudness of their tinnitus symptoms decreased.