Imagine a baby who doesn’t startle at a sudden noise. Tests show hearing loss. If
the type of hearing loss is something called sensorineural, then sound
comes into the baby’s ear, but the information never reaches the brain.
The problem is often damage to hair cells in the inner ear, called the
cochlea. The cells cannot convert the energy created by sound vibrations
into a nerve impulse that would travel via the auditory nerve to the
A century ago — even 30 years ago — treatments or hearing aids
to help with sensorineural hearing loss were primitive or non-existent,
depending on the extent of damage. The child likely would have had to
go to a special school or to have special education to learn another way
to communicate, such as sign language. The child would have lived in a world of virtual silence.
In this article journalist Susan Pugh highlights some of the current available procedures and research underway to help battle hearing loss.
Foundation Poll Finds 56% of Young People Have Trouble Hearing Their Teacher in Class
As part of its Listen Carefully campaign, which sends the message ‘don’t listen loudly, listen carefully,’ Starkey Hearing Foundation is once again teaming with recording artist Miley Cyrus
to encourage teens and young adults to take a “vow to act” to protect
their hearing, and spread the word to others to do the same. In fact,
according to a Starkey Hearing Foundation poll of more than 200 Miley Cyrus Facebook fans, 87 percent vowed to make the commitment to protect their
own hearing, with the same percentage saying they would pass the
message along to their friends and family.
An ongoing study of 45 deaf children who had two cochlear implants
finds that their language skills are within the normal range. Cochlear
implants replace the eardrum by delivering an electric signal from a
microphone to the auditory nerves located in the cochlea in the inner
ear. The study, the first good evidence that a second implant helps with
understanding speech, was presented at a Midwestern meeting of experts
on cochlear implants held at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thousands of children get cochlear implants each year, and the surgery is done at an ever-younger age, says Ruth Litovsky, a professor of communicative disorders and surgery/otolaryngology.
Cochlear Ltd., maker of the world’s best-selling ear implant, said costs
from a voluntary recall of one of its hearing devices may reach A$150
million ($152 million). Of 20 cochlear-implant surgeons surveyed globally, 85 percent indicated
Cochlear’s reputation was little or untarnished by the recall, Nomura
Holdings Inc. wrote in a report today. Rather than switch to an alternative supplier, surgeons have instead used Cochlear’s CI24RE implants.
The company plans to fund the cost of the recall
with cash, and increased a loan facility with Westpac Banking Corp. by
A$50 million in case additional funding is needed to maintain the
current level of dividend. More details of the cost of the recall will be announced in February,
when the company reports first-half earnings. Items
related to the recall will be accounted for in the period ending Dec.
The health plan says the program will save patients thousands of dollars, but physicians question whether it’s good medicine.
A United HealthGroup subsidiary said it can provide
hearing tests and hearing aids at a deep discount for patients by
“eliminating intermediaries” that drive up cost. United and its subsidiary, hi HealthInnovations, said
“intermediaries” doesn’t refer to physicians, and that the company will
encourage patients to see their doctors for certain hearing problems. But physicians who diagnose and treat hearing loss said that even if
it’s not the aim, promoting a service that could leave physicians out of
the loop is potentially dangerous. They said patients who skip the
doctor’s office in favor of United’s self-administered test risk missing
treatable underlying conditions or making the conditions worse.
A new study published in the journal PLoS Genetics, shows that several existing drugs currently used in cancer treatment also relieve the symptoms of persistent ear inflammation in mice. The research could eventually lead to an inexpensive, easy-to-apply
localised treatment for glue ear, which could eliminate the need for
children to undergo surgery to fit tiny ventilation tubes (known as grommets) into the ear. It is estimated that 90% of children in England will have had
at least one episode of middle ear infection by the age of five. Most
children recover quickly, but some will go on to experience repeated
bouts and a number will develop a chronic condition, where inflammation
continues, leading to the middle ear filling with a thick glue-like
fluid. The associated hearing loss can cause both social and
developmental delays in the child, including delayed language
acquisition. More work is needed to replicate the study in humans to make sure that
the underlying disease process is the same as the mouse model, but the researchers are optimistic that a new treatment could reach early-stage
clinical trials in around five years.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), the largest
U.S. health insurer by revenue, said it will sell a line of low-
cost hearing aids to at least 36 million Americans with hearing
loss in the first such program offered by an insurer.
The devices will be available to UnitedHealth customers
through Medicare managed care and prescription drug plans for no
out-of-pocket cost to some consumers and a co-pay of up to $649
for others depending on their plan, the company said in a
statement. Hearing aids typically sell for from $2,000 to
$4,000. The insurer provides Medicare benefits to almost 7 million
consumers, making it the biggest provider under the U.S. health
plan for the elderly and disabled.