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Welcome to the Ear Care & Audiology online newsfeed. Here you’ll find all the latest research, news stories, policy updates and guidelines. View our other newsfeeds for more subject-specific news.

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Owls May Shed Light on Age-Related Hearing Loss Prevention

Researchers have found that barn owls have what they call “ageless ears,” which could potentially help with identifying new treatment options for hearing-impaired humans.

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In a study published in Proceedings of Biological  Science, researchers measured the auditory sensitivity of seven barn owls ranging from less than 2 years old to 23 years old by training them to fly to a perch to receive a food reward in response to an auditory cue. Young and old owls both responded to the varying levels of auditory cues, and the oldest owl at 23 years old heard just as well as the younger owls.

​According to Georg Klump, one of the study authors “birds can repair their ears like humans can repair a wound”.  “Humans cannot re-grow the sensory cells of the ears but birds can do this.” Work is underway to investigate the differences between birds and mammals, which commonly lose their hearing at old age. ​

Full reference: Krumm, B. et al. Barn owls have ageless ears Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Sep 27;284

Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults

Ferguson MA, et al. | Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 9. | Published online 25th September 2017

This study reviewed the evidence on the effects that hearing aids have on everyday life in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Authors were interested in (1) a person’s ability to take part in everyday situations, (2) general health-related quality of life, (3) ability to listen to other people, and (4) harm, such as pain or over-exposure to noise.

Background

The main goal of hearing aids is to reduce the impact of hearing loss and to improve a person’s ability to take part in everyday life. Although hearing aids are the most common technology for adults with hearing loss and are in widespread use, it is not clear how beneficial they are.

Study characteristics

The evidence is up to date to 23 March 2017. Authors found five clinical studies involving 825 adults with mild to moderate hearing loss who were randomly given either hearing aids, no hearing aids or placebo hearing aids. Studies involved older adults with the average age within studies between 69 and 83 years. The duration of the studies was between six weeks and six months.

Key results

Evidence was found in three studies that hearing aids have a large beneficial effect in improving the ability of adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to take part in everyday situations. Hearing aids have a small beneficial effect in improving general health-related quality of life, such as physical, social, emotional and mental well-being, and have a large effect in improving the ability to listen to other people.

Only one study attempted to measure harms due to hearing aids. None were reported.

Conclusions

This review found that hearing aids improve the ability of adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to take part in everyday life, their general quality of life and their ability to listen to other people. If an adult with mild to moderate hearing loss seeks help for their hearing difficulties, hearing aids are an effective clinical option. It is important that future studies measure benefits consistently and report benefits separately for different age groups, genders, levels of hearing loss and types of hearing aids.

Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults:

 

Older adults’ experiences with a new hearing aid

Jorunn Solheim, Caryl Gay & Louise Hickson | Older adults’ experiences and issues with hearing aids in the first six months after hearing aid fitting | International Journal of Audiology | Published online: 27 Sep 2017

Objectives: This study describes older adults’ experiences with a new hearing aid (HA) during the first 6 months after fitting.

Design: In a longitudinally designed study, experiences and issues with HA use were assessed at a six-month follow-up appointment in individual structured interviews lasting 30 min. Associations between HA experiences and demographic factors, degree of hearing loss, and an objective measure of HA use (datalogging) were also examined.

Study sample: 181 HA recipients (≥60 years) attending a six-month follow-up appointment.

Results: Participants reported an average of 1.4 issues with HA use, the most common pertaining to the earmold (26.5%), sound quality (26.0%) and handling (25.5%). Participants who reported at least one issue had fewer hours of use per day, but were not more likely to be non-users (<30 min/day). Non-users (15.5%) were more likely to report no need for a HA and handling issues.

Conclusions: Most older adults use their HAs regardless of reported issues. However, handling issues and no perceived need may interfere with HA usage among some adults with hearing impairment. Moreover, reported issues were associated with less frequent HA use. Follow-up support is thus important to address issues that may interfere with optimal use.

Change in loneliness after intervention with cochlear implants or hearing aids

The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of hearing aid (HA) and cochlear implant (CI) use on loneliness in adults| The Laryngoscope

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Image source: Joonas Tikkanen – Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

One hundred and thirteen adults, aged ≥ 50 years, with postlingual hearing loss and receiving routine clinical care at a tertiary academic medical center, were evaluated with the University of California at Los Angeles Loneliness Scale before and 6 and 12 months after intervention with HAs or CIs. Change in score was assessed using linear mixed effect models adjusted for age; gender; education; and history of hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.

Treatment of hearing loss with CIs results in a significant reduction in loneliness symptoms. This improvement was not observed with HAs. We observed differential effects of treatment depending on the baseline loneliness score, with the greatest improvements observed in individuals with the most loneliness symptoms at baseline.

Full reference: Contrera, K.J. et al. (2017) Change in loneliness after intervention with cochlear implants or hearing aids. The Laryngoscope. Vol. 127 (Issue 8) pp. 1885–1889

The shaping of sustainable careers post hearing loss

Toward greater understanding of adult onset disability, disability identity, and career transitions | Human Relations

Through this interview-based study with 40 respondents in the United States we have outlined enablers of career transitions and sustainable careers for professionals who have experienced severe hearing loss as adults.

To sustain careers after adult onset disability, respondents engaged in a quest for meaning and big picture answers to ‘who am I?’ and ‘am I still successful?’ This included redefining themselves – e.g. I am now both a person with a disability (disability identity) and a successful professional (professional identity) – and career success (e.g. now I care about service to society as much as I care about material artifacts).

Respondents also adopted new work roles where disability was a key to success (e.g. becoming an equal employment officer) and utilized social networks to continue being successful. Such redefining of work and networks supported the aforesaid quest for meaning and big picture answers.

Findings not only indicate how individuals experience career success after a life-changing event but also help defamiliarize extant notions of ableism in workplace contexts.

Full reference: Baldridge, D.C. & Kulkarni, M. (2017) The shaping of sustainable careers post hearing loss: Toward greater understanding of adult onset disability, disability identity, and career transitions. Human Relations. Vol. 70 (Issue 10) pp. 1217 – 1236

Relationship between dietary quality, tinnitus and hearing level

The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between the healthy eating index (HEI), a measure of dietary quality based on United States Department of Agriculture recommendations and report of tinnitus | International Journal of Audiology 

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Results: Of the sample, 21.1% reported tinnitus within the past year and 11.7% reported persistent tinnitus, defined as tinnitus experienced at least monthly or greater. Controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, diabetes, noise exposure and smoking status, we found that with healthier diet (poorer vs. better HEI) there was decreased odds of reported persistent tinnitus [odds ratio (OR); 0.67; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.45–0.98; p = 0.03].

Conclusions: The current findings support a possible relationship between healthier diet quality and reported persistent tinnitus.

Full reference: Spankovich, C. et al. (2017) Relationship between dietary quality, tinnitus and hearing level: data from the national health and nutrition examination survey, 1999–2002. International Journal of Audiology. Vol. 56 (Issue 10) pp. 716-722

A smartphone “App” for tinnitus management

This study’s objective was to develop and test a smartphone app that supports learning and using coping skills for managing tinnitus | International Journal of Audiology 

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Design: The app’s content was based on coping skills that are taught as a part of progressive tinnitus management (PTM). The study involved three phases: (1) develop a prototype app and conduct usability testing; (2) conduct two focus groups to obtain initial feedback from individuals representing potential users; and (3) conduct a field study to evaluate the app, with three successive groups of participants.

Results: In both the focus groups and field studies, participants responded favourably to the content. Certain features, however, were deemed too complex.

Conclusion: Completion of this project resulted in the development and testing of the delivery of PTM coping skills via a smartphone app. This new approach has the potential to improve access to coping skills for those with bothersome tinnitus.

Full reference: Henry, J.A. et al. (2017) Development and field testing of a smartphone “App” for tinnitus management. International Journal of Audiology.
Vol. 56 (Issue 10) pp. 784-792