Science Daily | May 2018 | Synchronizing cochlear signals stimulates brain to ‘hear’ in stereo
American researchers have developed an innovative technique to synchronise the cochlear signals that stimulate the brain in a way that is similar to people who can hear. The ability to use both ears to hear enables the recognition of speech and improves sound localisation (via Science Daily).
At a forthcoming event, the 175th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, being held May 7-11, 2018, the researchers will present data that demonstrates how this technique synchronises the cochlear signals that stimulate the brain in a similar way to people who can hear without a cochlear implant. It will enable people with an implant to have a more realistic hearing experience.
Although the technique has yet to be tested outside of a laboratory setting, it is hoped that the research team can work with cochlear implant manufacturers to enable people with cochlear implants to benefit from this synchronous hearing.
JAMA | April 2018 | Experimental Device Could Offer Hope for Millions With Tinnitus
A research team at the University of Michigan has developed a novel, noninvasive treatment to address tinnitus. While a trial was initially conducted on guinea pigs the scientists have now studied human subjects. They recruited 20 adults with mild to moderate somatic tinnitus—the type that patients can temporarily modulate by clenching their jaws or pushing pressure points on their face or forehead. Those maneuvers indicate that somatosensory stimuli play a role in their tinnitus because patients can increase or decrease their symptoms. About two-thirds of people with the condition have somatic tinnitus.
The trial uses both sound and electrical stimulation to alter the brain’s circuitry and slow the firing rates of hyperactive, synchronized neurons, which suppresses the phantom ringing or buzzing of tinnitus.
The team developed a device that participants could use at home to receive sound stimulation through earphones and mild electrical stimulation via electrodes positioned on their neck or face. They wore these for half an hour each day, six of the participants used a bimodal protocol and the other half used a unimodal protocol. After treatment for 4 weeks followed by a month-long washout period, the participants were moved to the other treatment for a further month.
The trial was double-blinded. Weekly monitoring assessed tinnitus volume and tinnitus-related quality of life.
The device uses both sound and electrical stimulation to alter the brain’s circuitry and slow the firing rates of hyperactive, synchronized neurons, which suppresses the phantom ringing or buzzing of tinnitus.
Susan Shore, a professor of otolaryngology in the university’s Kresge Hearing Research Institute, and lead researcher in the study said, “In both groups the sound alone didn’t work,” Shore said. “But the combined bimodal stimulation showed a significant improvement in their tinnitus or reduction of their tinnitus loudness and a reduction of the impact of their tinnitus in their lives.” (JAMA)
The clinical trial is anticipated to begin in August.
University College London | March 2018 | Apps that help users ‘tune in’ to hearing aids awarded prestigious NHS prize
More than 90 million people in Europe experience hearing loss and, due to an ageing population, this figure is set to rise. Those with hearing loss will often wear hearing aids, small electronic devices worn in the ear that make sounds louder and clearer. However, the majority of users only use them to amplify sounds and do not take full advantage of the range of features that can allow them to hear better.
A new a new web-based app called the The 3-D Tune- in kit has been developed. The toolkit has a range of functions, including improving the experience of listening to music through a hearing aid. It provides a database of pieces of music that can be tuned and adjusted to sound optimal for the user’s level of hearing loss. To use the app, listeners remove their hearing aid and use a high quality pair of headphones or loudspeakers. The app amplifies the sounds in order to compensate for the users specific hearing loss
The toolkit has recently been recognised for its innovation, receiving an award from NHS England’s Healthcare Science Awards where the app was given the best Healthcare Science Partnering Patients and Citizens project. It was created and developed by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, the University of Malaga, Nottingham University De Montfort University, gaming developers and a large European hearing aid manufacturer. They also worked closely with the hearing communities and patients at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and with other institutions across the UK, Spain and Italy (via Imperial College).
This guide has been produced to help staff working in longer-term care settings provide high-quality care and support to older people with hearing loss. It is written for care home managers | Action on Hearing Loss
The guide covers the following:
The need to support older people with hearing loss
Identifying and checking for hearing loss
Improving hearing aid use and management
Meeting residents’ communication needs
Providing assistive listening devices
Managing ear wax
Appointing Hearing Loss Champions
Meeting the requirements of the CQC Inspection Framework
The Hearing Journal has published an update on unilateral hearing loss. It is based on the Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children Conference 2017, which featured current research presented by many of the foremost experts on Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL).