Study shows architecture of audition likely based on innate factors
Harvard Gazette By Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer
July 18, 2016
The neural architecture in the auditory cortex — the part of the brain that processes sound — is virtually identical in profoundly deaf and hearing people, a new study has found.
The study raises a host of new questions about the role of experience in processing sensory information, and could point the way toward potential new avenues for intervention in deafness. The study is described in a June 18 paper published in Scientific Reports.
The paper was written by Ella Striem-Amit, a postdoctoral researcher in Alfonso Caramazza’s Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory at Harvard, Mario Belledonne from Harvard, Jorge Almeida from the University of Coimbra, and Quanjing Chen, Yuxing Fang, Zaizhu Han, and Yanchao Bi from Beijing Normal University.
It’s a team sport, but indoor polo doesn’t take much talking—which helped make it an instant fit for Peter Hauser. During his freshman year of college, a few horse hours were a weekly routine: polo three times a week, together with training ponies or coaching local students in the sport. But Hauser had a stronger motivation than his love of the game: The horses didn’t expect him to hear them.
At the age of 5, a bout of spinal meningitis left Hauser completely deaf. While in middle school, he attempted to use cochlear implants—considered an experimental treatment at the time—but the prosthetics proved ineffective. The procedures and monitoring nonetheless had an upside: They provided his earliest experiences working with researchers, which helped him become interested in pursuing science himself.
Hauser had a longstanding interest in human psychology. As a deaf student, however, he didn’t think he could work with people as research subjects, so he chose to major in animal sciences instead. But when his advanced courses proved challenging, he began taking evening sign language classes at a community college so that he could use an interpreter to keep up—he had relied on lip-reading up to that point—and the decision was life-changing.
Genetics of Deafness offers a journey through areas crucial for understanding the causes and effects of hearing loss. It covers such topics as the latest approaches in diagnostics and deafness research and the current status and future promise of gene therapy for hearing restoration. The book begins by bringing attention to how hearing loss affects the individual and society. Methods of hearing loss detection and management throughout the lifespan are highlighted as is a particularly new development in newborn hearing screening. The challenges of hearing loss, an extremely heterogeneous impairment, are addressed. Read more . . . Genetics of Deafness
Summary: Many testicular cancer survivors experience hearing loss after cisplatin-based chemotherapy, according to researchers who studied, for the first time, the cumulative effects of cisplatin-based chemotherapy on hearing levels in testicular cancer survivors through comprehensive audiometry measurements. They found that increasing doses of cisplatin were associated with increased hearing loss at most of the tested frequencies, involving 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 kHz.
It is important to remember that any chemical that is ototoxic is also likely to be poisonous to the kidneys, because the inner ear and the kidneys arise from the same germ layer during embryonic development.
The short answer to the question in the headline is an unequivocal “yes!” There are industrial chemicals in common use that are ototoxic (poisonous to the ears), meaning that they can damage hearing just as easily as industrial noise. However, simultaneous exposure to noise and ototoxic chemicals is particularly insidious because of their synergistic effect.
In order to illustrate a synergistic relationship, let’s suppose a given noise exposure is responsible for a 10-dB threshold shift. Let’s also suppose that an ototoxic chemical, by itself, can induce a 10-dB threshold shift. If exposure to the noise and ototoxin together results in a 20-dB threshold shift, then we say the combined effect is additive. A synergistic effect, however, is one in which the combined impact of the noise and ototoxin results in a much greater total threshold shift than would be predicted by simply adding together the noise- and ototoxin-related threshold shifts—perhaps a 35- or 40-dB threshold shift may occur. Also, such a threshold shift often impacts a wider range of frequencies. Indeed, a synergistic effect is greater than the sum of its parts, and this observation has been borne out by research involving industrial workers.
Chemotherapy drug cisplatin is used to treat breast, prostate, neuroblastoma, melanoma and many other cancers
May 18, 2016
University of Southern California
The chemotherapy drug cisplatin can kill cancer, but it can also cause permanent hearing loss. The drug can kill the sensory cells of the inner ear, a phenomenon that is likely more severe in individuals with Cockayne syndrome, a rare form of dwarfism. The disorder results from mutations in one of two genes involved in repairing DNA damage. Cells can sustain DNA damage from environmental stresses ranging from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to toxic chemicals such as chemotherapy drugs.
Researchers reviewed studies exploring the link between type 2 diabetes and hearing loss and found evidence that the condition can cause damage to the auditory system.
Given the results of the study published in the journal Current Diabetes Reports, the researchers are pushing doctors to include hearing tests when crafting programs to manage type 2 diabetes in patients diagnosed with the condition.
According to Elizabeth Helzner, one of the authors of the study, the connection between diabetes and hearing loss has been shown numerous times in earlier studies but directly comparing previous work is difficult because there is no clear definition for hearing loss and other related factors.
Researchers in the University of South Florida’s Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research (GCHSR), recognized as the world’s top research center for age-related hearing loss, have received a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study two unique ways to treat age-related hearing loss (ARHL).
According to Robert Frisina, Jr., USF professor and director of the GCHSR, ARHL is the number one communication disorder and most common neurodegenerative condition affecting older Americans, impacting more people than other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
Frisina says hearing loss can occur from many environmental reasons, but their focus is on age-related hearing loss.
“Permanent hearing loss, including ARHL, is estimated to affect 10 percent of the U.S. population,” said Frisina. “Currently, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for permanent hearing loss, including ARHL, despite its prevalence. While ARHL directly and negatively affects quality of life for older people, severe ARHL has also recently been linked to the earlier onset of dementia.”
Improving the health of the deaf and hard-of-hearing population through accessible patient-reported outcome measures is the goal of a $1.6 million National Institutes of Health-funded study, led by Rochester Institute of Technology.
Researchers and providers will, for the first time, have a tool for assessing their deaf and hard-of-hearing patients’ health-related quality-of-life outcomes in American Sign Language. Resulting data will lend new insights in patient outcomes research and improve prevention and treatment models for the underserved deaf and hard-of-hearing population, said Poorna Kushalnagar, a health psychologist and research associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
Patient assessments evaluate symptoms, well-being and life satisfaction, as well as physical, mental and social health. Surveys designed for English speakers present a language barrier for many users of American Sign Language and accessible services, Kushalnagar said.
National Science Foundation grant will help scientists study how hearing levels and early-language experience influence deaf children’s vision
ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Does being born deaf lead to better visual skills, or does a lack of hearing make it difficult for deaf children to pay attention to the world around them? According to researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, who recently earned a $450,000 National Science Foundation grant, the answer often depends on the background of the deaf child being studied.
The NSF award, which will be distributed over three years, will support a longitudinal study of 150 deaf children, ages 6 to 13, attending schools for the deaf around the United States. The research team, led by Matthew Dye, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Liberal Studies, and Peter Hauser, professor and director of NTID’s Deaf Studies Laboratory, hopes to prove that deaf children who learn American Sign Language (ASL) early in life look at the world differently compared to deaf children who receive a cochlear implant and use a spoken language such as English. They also hope to learn whether it is a lack of hearing or the age at which they are exposed to a natural language that most influences how deaf children perceive the world.
Through assessments of each child’s hearing levels, cognitive skills and fluency in ASL, the scientists will determine how well these variables predict deaf children’s improvements in processing visual information. Research will also focus on how well deaf children can shift their focus of attention from one thing to another, or temporal visual attention. Using a set of iPad games, deaf children will be asked to look for targets in fast-moving streams of visual information or pick out important sequences.
“Many people think that being born deaf leads to deficits in the ability to understand information that is presented sequentially,” said Dye. “However, previous research has failed to dissociate loss of hearing from exposure to language. In this study, we want to see whether early exposure to ASL can enhance sequence processing in deaf students.”
Dye has said past studies have looked only at deaf children born to deaf parents, and who learned ASL when they were infants. Other studies have looked only at deaf children born to hearing parents, who do not learn ASL and use speech to communicate alongside digital hearing aids or cochlear implants.
“The visual attention system consists of different cognitive networks; language and hearing levels appear to have a positive effect on some, but not all, aspects of the network,” Hauser explained. “These findings have been based on comparing deaf individuals of different ages and backgrounds. With this grant funding, it is exciting that we now can follow the same deaf children over a period of time to observe how early language experience may lead to these changes.”
Changes to improve user experience include responsive design for mobile devices
March 4, 2016
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has implemented several enhancements to the NIDCD website. The changes are designed to enhance users’ experience and strengthen the institute’s alignment with federal mandates for information technology.
Key features of the revised website include:
Responsive design, enabling the content to automatically adjust to fit a user’s screen size, whether it is viewed on a computer, tablet, or phone.
We will continue to update and enhance NIDCD digital communications for health consumers, researchers and trainees, health professionals, and others. If you have comments or need assistance, please let us know at email@example.com(link sends e-mail). For health information about hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, or language disorders, please contact us at 800-241-1044 or firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail)
WASHINGTON — Deaf children who learn to sign early may boost their brainpower in ways unrelated to language.
“Most deaf children are born to hearing families, and most hearing parents do not sign with their newborn deaf children,” clinical neuropsychologist Peter Hauser, who is deaf, explained February 12 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The deaf children, as a consequence, have very limited exposure to sign language,” signed Hauser, of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.
Washington – Increased awareness and targeted interventions may help protect workers from experiencing hearing loss and/or tinnitus, according to a recent study from NIOSH.
Researchers analyzed national data on hearing conditions among workers who were exposed to elevated levels of occupational noise, as well as workers who were not exposed to such noise.
Researchers emphasized several key findings, including:
Workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting faced “significantly higher risks” for hearing difficulty, tinnitus and the occurrence of both conditions.
Workers in manufacturing faced significantly higher risks for tinnitus and the co-occurrence of hearing difficulty and tinnitus.
Workers in life, physical and social science occupations faced a significantly higher risk for hearing difficulty.
Workers in architecture and engineering roles faced a significantly higher risk for tinnitus.
Twenty-three percent of workers exposed to occupational noise had hearing difficulty, compared with 7 percent of workers who had hearing difficulty despite not being exposed to occupational noise, NIOSH stated.
Research Study Participants Needed: Do you or someone you know have a deaf baby between six to 12 months old? Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. is seeking participants for a study on neuroimaging. See flyer for more details.
A new prosthesis for a traditional ear surgery is bringing hope to patients diagnosed with a hereditary disorder that causes hearing loss. After 63-year-old Diane Duncan was diagnosed with otosclerosis in her thirties, she transitioned into an isolated world where conversations with other people became limited, everyday noises like car engines running and cell phones ringing became almost inaudible.
Diane has conductive hearing loss – a type of condition where the ear drum and the bones in the middle of the ear (including the stapes bone) don’t vibrate properly. The most common form to affect adults is known as otosclerosis. Patients with otosclerosis have abnormal bone growth around the stapes bone. The stapes bone must move freely for the ear to work properly and for a person to hear well.
Typically doctors perform a stapedectomy to treat the condition. It involves removing part or all of the immobilized stapes bone and replacing it with a prosthetic device. The prosthetic device allows the bones in the middle ear to resume movement, which stimulates fluid in the inner ear, and improves or restores hearing.
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