The first national treatment guideline for sudden hearing loss, a frightening condition that sends thousands in the U.S. to the emergency room each year, was published this month in the journal Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. The guideline was developed by a 19-member panel led by Robert J. Stachler, M.D., an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. "In most cases, patients will have multiple visits with several physicians and undergo extensive testing before a diagnosis is made. There's also been a lack of one or more uniformly accepted treatments, or a consensus on how to counsel patients who do not fully recover their hearing, " says Dr. Stachler. "By focusing on opportunities for quality improvement, the guideline should improve diagnosis, reduce unnecessary tests and imaging procedures, and improve hearing for patients affected by sudden hearing loss.
Deafness has a far-reaching impact on people's social, emotional, and cognitive development. The condition is heterogeneous, and about 7 in 10, 000 people are severely or profoundly deaf, with about 70, 000 people in the UK alone being profoundly deaf. About 15 to 26% of the global population suffers from hearing loss; most of them come from the poorest countries. Most hearing impaired people see themselves as a cultural minority, the deaf community, that has to use sign language in order to communicate. A study in this week's Lancet by Dr Johannes Fellinger and his team in Austria, demonstrates that deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems, compared with the general population. The study also reveals disparities in terms of access to and the quality of mental health care that deaf people receive.
In both animals and humans, vocal signals used for communication contain a wide array of different sounds that are determined by the vibrational frequencies of vocal cords. For example, the pitch of someone's voice, and how it changes as they are speaking, depends on a complex series of varying frequencies. Knowing how the brain sorts out these different frequencies - which are called frequency-modulated (FM) sweeps - is believed to be essential to understanding many hearing-related behaviors, like speech. Now, a pair of biologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has identified how and where the brain processes this type of sound signal. Their findings are outlined in a paper published in the journal Neuron. Knowing the direction of an FM sweep - if it is rising or falling, for example - and decoding its meaning, is important in every language.
The hair cells of the inner ear have a previously unknown "root" extension that may allow them to communicate with nerve cells and the brain to regulate sensitivity to sound vibrations and head position, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have discovered. Their finding is reported online in advance of print in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The hair-like structures, called stereocilia, are fairly rigid and are interlinked at their tops by structures called tip-links. When you move your head, or when a sound vibration enters your ear, motion of fluid in the ear causes the tip-links to get displaced and stretched, opening up ion channels and exciting the cell, which can then relay information to the brain, says Anna Lysakowski, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the UIC College of Medicine and principal investigator on the study.
Those suffering from nagging tinnitus can benefit from internet-based therapy just as much as patients who take part in group therapy sessions. These are the findings of a German-Swedish study in which patients with moderate to severe tinnitus tried out various forms of therapy over a ten-week period. The outcome of both the internet-based therapy and group therapy sessions was significantly better than that of a control group that only participated in an online discussion forum and thus demonstrated both the former to be effective methods of managing the symptoms of irritating ringing in the ears. The study was conducted by the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy division of the Institute of Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning at Link√ ping University in Sweden.