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A well-known imaging test that radiologists use to monitor blood flow from the heart may soon be deployed to pinpoint what part of the ear is experiencing age-related hearing loss.

Robert Frisina, distinguished university professor and chair of the USF Department of Medical Engineering, is working with Moffitt Cancer Center to develop cutting-edge imaging that more accurately identifies problem areas. His team is focusing on the cochlea, a hollow, spiral-shaped, fluid filled cavity in the temporal bone – also called the inner ear – that has a “biological battery” needed for transmitting sound vibration information to the brain. Over time, the battery deteriorates, and it has been nearly impossible to clinically determine why.

“Diagnosing how healthy this biological battery is in patients is not yet possible. Our innovative imaging approach may make this doable in the near future for otolaryngologists and audiologists,” Frisina said.

Robert Frisina, distinguished university professor and chair of the USF Department of Medical Engineering

The research team is using medical imaging involving the use of a tracer ­– a small amount of radioactive material that will allow radiologists to see what’s occurring inside the ear. It’s administered through an IV and is commonly used during positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

By differentiating the functionality of different parts of the cochlea, physicians can prescribe medication that will treat that specific area as a future option other than taking the blanketed approach of prescribing hearing aids.

Frisina is now fine-tuning the procedure with an R1 research grant from the National Institutes of Health, one of the most prestigious forms of federal biomedical funding. He hopes that by combining biomedical engineering and imaging with hearing sciences, his team will begin clinical trials at the conclusion of the two-year grant period – ultimately achieving this translational breakthrough for individuals experiencing hearing loss.

This study is in addition to an ongoing $9 million grant awarded to Frisina’s team by the National Institutes of Health to better understand the causes of age-related hearing loss and develop a medication to treat it. He and his group patented a new medication in 2019 and are currently seeking to work with a pharmaceutical company toward FDA approval.

The Department of Medical Engineering is a rare, joint program between the USF College of Engineering and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. It was established in 2019 with special funding awarded to USF following its designation by the Florida Board of Governors as a Preeminent State Research University.

Article originally appeared on USF Newsroom. 

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National Institutes of Health researchers have discovered a specific network of proteins that is necessary to restore hearing in zebrafish through cell regeneration. The study, led by investigators at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), may inform the development of treatments for hearing loss in humans. The findings were published in Cell Genomics.

Although hair cell loss cannot be replaced in humans, many animals, including zebrafish, can restore hearing after injury through the regeneration of hair cells. The regenerative properties of zebrafish hair cells prompted researchers to use this animal to understand some fundamental properties of regeneration.

Hearing loss affects around 37.5 million Americans, and most cases come from the loss of hearing receptors known as “hair cells” in the inner ear. Bristles that stick out of these microscopic hair cells move and bend when sound travels into our ears, resulting in electric signals sent through nerves and into our brains that allow us to process sound.

Humans and zebrafish are visually quite different, but at a genomic level, they share more than 70% of their genes. This genomic similarity offers the potential for researchers to understand the biology of cell regeneration in zebrafish before translating the findings to humans.

Erin Jimenez, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Shawn Burgess, Ph.D., senior investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) Translational and Functional Genomics Branch, led the study in collaboration with researchers Ivan Ovcharenko, Ph.D., and Wei Song, Ph.D., at the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.

“Humans and other mammals are born with a set number of hair cells that are slowly lost through aging and trauma. However some animals, such as zebrafish, can regenerate hair cells and recover hearing after injury,” said Burgess. “How and why regeneration happens in these animals remain a mystery that many scientists would like to unravel.”

Using a combination of genomic techniques and computational-based machine learning, Jimenez and her collaborators found that hair cell regeneration in zebrafish relied on a network of proteins that can switch genes on and off, known as transcription factors. To properly identify which transcription factors were at play, the researchers first had to look at the enhancer sequences within the zebrafish genome.

If transcription factors are thought of as the keys that turn a car on and off, enhancer sequences are the car’s ignition switch. Both parts need to interact to make a car run, just like how transcription factors need to bind to specific enhancer sequences to express a gene.

The researchers used new genomic techniques called single-cell RNA sequencing and single-cell assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing to identify the enhancer sequences and their corresponding transcription factors that play a role in hair cell regeneration.

“Our study identified two families of transcription factors that work together to activate hair cell regeneration in zebrafish, called Sox and Six transcription factors,” said Jimenez.

First, the Sox transcription factors initiate the regeneration response in surrounding cells, called support cells. Next, the Sox and Six transcription factors cooperate to turn those support cells into hair cells.

When hair cells die in zebrafish, nearby support cells start replicating. These support cells are like stem cells because of their ability to become other cell types. Researchers had identified some of the factors that convert support cells into hair cells, but what was not understood is how and where the genes encoding those factors turn on and are coordinated with other unknown factors.

“We have identified a unique combination of transcription factors that trigger regeneration in zebrafish. Further down the line, this group of zebrafish transcription factors might become a biological target that may lead to the development of novel therapy to treat hearing loss in humans,” Jimenez said.

Article originally appeared on ScienceDaily

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According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 billion people across the globe are living with hearing loss. Much of that is preventable, stemming from excessive noise, untreated ear infections, and exposure to ototoxic chemicals. About half of youth and young adults are at risk for hearing loss due to recreational noise exposure.

Careful monitoring can create better outcomes for patients with hearing loss. For example, it is estimated that 60% of childhood hearing loss can be mitigated through early detection and intervention. But rural populations often lack the specialists and technology required to diagnose the condition.

In The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, published on behalf of the Acoustical Society of America by AIP Publishing, Samantha Kleindienst Robler from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), with her co-authors, Laura Coco of San Diego State University and Mark Krumm of Kent State University, explored how digital health solutions can expand audiology services in clinical and research settings.

“If undetected and untreated, hearing loss can have significant lifelong consequences for those relying on spoken language,” said Robler. “Preventable hearing loss can negatively impact speech, communication, academic performance, vocational opportunities, and quality of life.”

Audiology assessment via telehealth would allow patients to access care in their home or a local clinic while a specialist is located hundreds of miles away in an urban center. Instead of tabletop equipment in a soundproof room, the hearing tests would use a wireless headset controlled by a mobile phone or laptop.

“Digital health technology is versatile and, in many ways, can meet the patient where they are,” said Robler. “A real strength is that it can help take patient care to the next level by moving from an in-person, visit-centric approach to a person-centric approach that better supports a person’s life and their needs.”

As a research tool, telehealth would allow scientists to gather more representative and decentralized data on hearing, without compromising results.

“Telehealth technology can also be used to facilitate the prevention of permanent hearing loss by monitoring individuals exposed to excessive occupational noise or ototoxic medication,” said Robler.

Robler and the team at UAMS are currently scaling up several audiological studies they conducted in rural areas of Alaska. Their mission is to close the gap on hearing health disparities with large, collaborative research spanning from device development to implementation.

“There is much work to be done to ensure everyone has equal access to hearing health care, regardless of where they live, and that the evidence generated in hearing-related clinical trials is robust and representative,” said Robler.

Article originally appeared on ScienceDaily

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According to recent Baycrest research, adults without dementia risk factors like smoking, diabetes, or hearing loss had brain health comparable to that of those who are 10 to 20 years younger than them. According to the research, only one dementia risk factor can age a person’s cognition by up to three years.

“Our results suggest lifestyle factors may be more important than age in determining someone’s level of cognitive functioning. This is great news since there’s a lot you can do to modify these factors, such as managing diabetes, addressing hearing loss, and getting the support you need to quit smoking,” says Dr. Annalise LaPlume, Postdoctoral Fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and the study’s lead author.

The research is one of the first to look at lifestyle risk factors for dementia across the entire lifespan.

“While most studies of this nature look at mid- and older-adulthood, we also included data from participants as young as 18, and we found that risk factors had a negative impact on cognitive performance across all ages. This is crucial as it means risk factors can and should be addressed as early as possible,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI, Associate Scientific Director of Baycrest’s Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness, and senior author of this study.

The study, recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, a journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, included data from 22,117 people aged 18 to 89 who completed the Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment, developed by Baycrest. Participants took the test in their own homes by going to the Cogniciti website. The test takes around 20 minutes to complete and consists of a background questionnaire and four cognitive tasks.

The researchers examined how eight modifiable risk factors for dementia—low education (less than a high school diploma), hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, alcohol or substance abuse, hypertension, smoking (currently or in the past four years), diabetes, and depression—affected participants’ performance on memory and attention tests.

Each factor caused a reduction in cognitive function that was equivalent to three years of age, with each additional factor having a similar effect. For instance, having three risk factors could result in a decline in cognitive function that is comparable to nine years of aging. As individuals aged, the consequences of the risk variables and their prevalence also rose.

“All in all, our research shows that you have the power to decrease your risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” says Dr. LaPlume. “Start addressing any risk factors you have now, whether you’re 18 or 90, and you’ll support your brain health to help yourself age fearlessly.”

This study was funded by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

With additional funding, the researchers could look further into the differences between normal agers and “super agers” – people who have the identical cognitive performance to those several decades younger than them.

Article appeared on SciTechDaily

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Some 432 million adults worldwide suffer from hearing loss, and this number is estimated to double by 2025. About 16% of global cases of hearing loss is caused by exposure to noises that are higher than recommended levels for a workplace. Likewise, nearly 600 million workers are exposed to noises with levels higher than threshold limit value (TLV) (85 dBA) recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) has been introduced as the most important reason for hearing impairment in 7%–21% of workers. Statistics of Bureau of Labor reveal that NIHL is now recognized as the most commonly recorded occupational disease in manufacturing plants that increases hearing loss disabilities in more than 500 million laborers worldwide. They also reported NIHL is among the nine recorded diseases. No statistics have been done on NIHL in Iran; however, this growing health issue is probably more widespread than developed countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is a serious public health concern. There are more than 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, about 880 million of whom currently live in developing countries. Iran ranks 73rd out of 181 countries in cigarette smoking based on the Tobacco Atlas report. Each Iranian smoker older than 15 consume an average of 936 cigarettes per year. Iran is among the list of countries that have not addressed smoking well. According to WHO, about 20.2% of Iranian men over the age of 15 smoke on a regular basis, and this recently has been increasing. Smoking has several hazards to the health—-increased risk of cancer, premature death, respiratory tract infections, and increased amount of pollutant in the environment.

However, results from three out of eight cohort studies showed a relationship between smoking and hearing loss,  whereas others did not find any effect of smoking on hearing loss. Because noise exposure might be a significant factor that interacts with (or affects) the effect of smoking on hearing loss, our study aimed to assess the impact of smoking on hearing loss among workers exposed to industrial noise 85 dBA or higher at a metalwork plant in Arak, Iran.

Article originally appeared on The Hearing Journal

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Over 1.2 billion individuals worldwide have hearing loss. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have excellent hearing for their whole lives and can live up to 70 years. One reason is that crocodiles can create new hair cells, and an Uppsala University research team is currently investigating why. Hopefully, understanding crocodile biology can benefit those who have hearing loss.

“We can see that new hair cells seem to be formed from the activation of so-called support cells, which is connected to crocodiles having certain cell structures that humans appear to lack. Our hypothesis is that nerves that carry impulses from the brain, so-called efferent nerves, trigger that regrowth,” says Helge Rask-Andersen, professor of experimental otology at Uppsala University and one of the researchers behind the study, which was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.

More than a billion people worldwide have hearing loss, which causes significant difficulties for individuals and often lowers the perceived quality of life. The most common cause of hearing loss is the failure of receptors in the ears, and these receptors cannot be regenerated in humans. They may, however, be in non-mammal creatures such as crocodiles, which maintain strong hearing throughout their lives despite living up to 70 years.

It is known that animals can quickly regenerate the hair cells in their ears if they are damaged. But it is not really known how. Crocodiles have excellent hearing that is adapted for being on land and underwater. One distinctive characteristic is that the receptors’ sensitivity to different pitches is affected by external temperature, making it perfect for different kinds of dangers in different environments during evolution.

The crocodile ear has been examined in a new study by ear researchers at Uppsala University Hospital together with researchers at Uppsala University. Few research groups in the world have studied the inner ear of the crocodile, and the researchers in this study have used electron microscopy and molecular technologies.

One interesting discovery was that small cell particles are secreted in the crocodile’s ear. The particles resemble exosomes and can secrete enzymes that break down or form the membrane against which the cilia in the ear rub as sound comes in. The exosomes form small alveoli, cavities, that make it easier for the cilia to bend when sound vibrations reach the ear.

IFrame“One hypothesis is that this increases sensitivity to sound and hearing improves. Our hope is to learn how crocodiles regenerate their hair cells and to eventually be able to use that on people in the future,” says Helge Rask-Andersen.

Article originally appeared on SciTechDaily. 

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While some may think of hearing loss as something that happens with age, it can also happen to kids.

Parents and teachers should consider hearing loss if a child’s academic performance declines or he or she develops behavioral issues, lack of focus and depression, the American Academy of Audiology advises.

“Because children often don’t realize they are missing information and may not communicate hearing difficulties, issues with auditory accessibility may go undetected,” said academy president Sarah Sydlowski, who is audiology director of the Hearing Implant Program at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.

Babies typically have their hearing tested shortly after birth, but hearing loss can start in early childhood, too. In the United States, about two to three of every 1,000 babies are born with detectable hearing loss, according to the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

It’s not known how many children have hearing loss because many cases may be undiagnosed. Illness, ear infections and exposure to loud sounds can all affect children’s hearing.

And hearing loss can impact a child’s education. Children with untreated hearing loss use more mental energy to understand what is being said, according to the academy. It may appear they are not paying attention when they actually are missing what was said.

“A child with minimal hearing loss may be missing a significant amount of the classroom discussion,” Sydlowski said in an academy news release.

Unfortunately, she added, children may be identified as having a learning disability when they actually have untreated hearing loss.

“Hearing loss should always be ruled out when there are academic and speech and language issues,” Sydlowski said. “We want to treat the hearing loss first since untreated hearing loss can disrupt all aspects of educational success.”

Among the signs to look for are difficulty following through on assignments, not understanding the questions or not responding appropriately to them.

The academy also suggests watching for speech that is different from that of other children the same age, including struggling to pronounce simple words, being unable to repeat a phrase or having language delays.

A child with hearing loss may often ask you to repeat what you say and watch your face intently while you talk. The child may have trouble hearing on the phone, speak loudly when not warranted, have chronic ear pain or complain of loud noises that he or she cannot identify.

The child may appear more weary than is typical at the end of the school day. A child with hearing loss may also turn up the volume on the TV, computer or headphones, and may favor one ear over the other when using the phone, choosing a seat or responding to questions.

“Parents and teachers don’t always realize that a child’s behavior may be a sign of hearing loss,” Sydlowski said.

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Many people are returning to recreational activities they suspended during the pandemic, and hearing experts warn cranking up music using earbuds can lead to hearing loss.

Dr. James Lewis, associate professor of audiology and speech pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, said many people listen to music while they are running a lawn mower or exercising in a loud gym. He explained listening to music over loud background noise can set the stage for ear damage.

“That’s pretty hazardous,” Lewis stressed. “Because what you tend to do when you’re in a noisy environment, and you’re trying to listen to your music through headphones, you tend to really increase the volume of your headphones, putting yourself at greater risk.”

One in eight people in the United States 12 years or older has experienced hearing loss in both ears, according to Data from the National Institutes of Health.

He pointed out while many people are aware high-pitched tinging or buzzing is a warning sign of potential hearing loss, it is lesser known constant fatigue can also foreshadow a hearing problem.

“Especially if you know during the day you’re in these environments where you really have to focus on listening,” Lewis noted. “When you have hearing loss, that can cause you to exert greater effort in trying to understand what’s going on. And that can have this kind of tiring effect as you go throughout the day.”

Claire Johnson, manager of clinical services for UnitedHealthcare and an audiologist, said there are reminders to ensure you are not causing damage.

“One good recommendation or quick, easy rule that we recommend at UnitedHealthcare hearing is a 60/60 rule,” Johnson outlined. “Limiting music to 60 minutes at a time at 60% of the player’s maximum volume.”

The Centers for Disease Control said the use of hearing aids is on the rise among people age 45-64, as well as among those 65 and over.

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While children receiving chemotherapy routinely undergo hearing tests, adults don’t, and a new study by UC San Francisco reports for the first time that significant hearing issues often occur among adult survivors of the most common forms of cancer.

The researchers found that more than half the survivors in their study who had been treated with chemotherapy experienced significant hearing problems.

Previously, it was unknown how frequently survivors of breast, gastrointestinal, gynecologic or lung cancer suffered clinically meaningful levels of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

The paper is published Wednesday, July 27, 2022 in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

“While hearing loss associated with the administration of platinum drugs was reported in adults with testicular and head and neck cancer, our study is the first to demonstrate that hearing loss and tinnitus are highly prevalent problems in survivors of the four most common types of cancer,” said first author Steven W. Cheung, MD, a UCSF professor of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

“Another important and previously unknown finding from our study is that these high rates of hearing loss and tinnitus occur not only with platinum drugs, but with another class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes,” he said. “Given that platinum and taxane-containing chemotherapy regimens are the ones most commonly used to treat the majority of cancers, these findings have huge implications for clinicians who treat cancer patients, as well as for cancer survivors.”

The study had 273 cancer survivors who were 61 years old on average and had completed cancer treatment about five years earlier.

The investigators found that more than 50 percent experienced significant hearing loss confirmed by an audiogram, a type of hearing exam, and more than 35 percent reported tinnitus.

Reflecting the negative impact that hearing loss and tinnitus can have on mood and social interactions, participants with hearing loss reported moderate to severe levels of impairment with routine activity, such as listening to television or radio, talking with family members and friends, or conversing in restaurants.

Those with tinnitus reported that this problem interfered with their ability to concentrate or relax, their mood and enjoyment of life, and their sleep.

The findings hold important implications for the care of cancer patients and survivors, said the investigators. Given that hearing loss and tinnitus are not assessed routinely in patients receiving chemotherapy for breast, gastrointestinal, lung and gynecologic cancers, and that many of these individuals may be experiencing some degree of age-related hearing loss, evaluations of hearing loss and tinnitus should be done prior to, during, and following chemotherapy administration, the authors said.

Additionally, the authors noted that because hearing loss is often underestimated, routine screening and follow-up should be done by hearing professionals. Individualized management plans for tinnitus require consultation with specialist clinicians.

Notably, while 31 percent of the participants denied having hearing loss, they were later found to have hearing impairment on audiometry.

“While individuals often underestimate hearing problems, our findings point to the need for cancer survivors to have their hearing tested,” said senior and corresponding author Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD, a member of the UCSF School of Nursing and the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in recognition of her achievements in nursing.

“Though the type of hearing loss that occurs with platinum and taxane drugs is permanent, patients’ hearing can be improved with the use of a hearing aid,” Miaskowski said. “Only 17 percent of the survivors in our study were using a hearing aid, which suggests that clinicians need to refer survivors for a hearing test on a routine basis.”

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Following a 90-day outreach period, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Regional Emphasis Program for Noise Induced Hearing Loss will move into the enforcement phase beginning May 17, 2022. The emphasis program targets manufacturing industries with high rates of occupational hearing loss in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Historically, hearing loss is the most recorded occupational illness in manufacturing, except for illnesses related to COVID-19 in 2020. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that potentially damaging noise levels put 18 million workers at risk and produced 14,500 cases of work-related hearing loss. Like many occupational injuries, work-related hearing loss is preventable when controls are implemented, proper protection is provided and required standards are followed.

“This regional emphasis program will help ensure manufacturing employers in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota do what is necessary to protect their workers from exposures to excessive noise and prevent permanent hearing loss.,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. “OSHA hopes the emphasis program will remind manufacturing industry employers to follow required safety standards and alert workers to the related hazards and reduce workplace injuries,” Rous added.

Excessive noise exposure has been shown to also cause increased physiological stress, muscle tension, loss of sleep and fatigue. Read more about how to control and reduce excessive noise exposure in the workplace.