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

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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:

 

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

Early Hearing Detection and Vocabulary of Children With Hearing Loss.

The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of the current EHDI 1-3-6 policy on vocabulary outcomes across a wide geographic area | Pediatrics

Background: To date, no studies have examined vocabulary outcomes of children meeting all 3 components of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) guidelines (hearing screening by 1 month, diagnosis of hearing loss by 3 months, and intervention by 6 months of age). A secondary goal was to confirm the impact of other demographic variables previously reported to be related to language outcomes.

Results: The combination of 6 factors in a regression analysis accounted for 41% of the variance in vocabulary outcomes. Vocabulary quotients were significantly higher for children who met the EHDI guidelines, were younger, had no additional disabilities, had mild to moderate hearing loss, had parents who were deaf or hard of hearing, and had mothers with higher levels of education.

Conclusions: Vocabulary learning may be enhanced with system improvements that increase the number of children meeting the current early identification and intervention guidelines. In addition, intervention efforts need to focus on preventing widening delays with chronological age, assisting mothers with lower levels of education, and incorporating adults who are deaf/hard-of-hearing in the intervention process.

Yoshinaga-Itano, C. et al. (2017) Early Hearing Detection and Vocabulary of Children With Hearing Loss. Pediatrics. Vol. 140 (no. 2) e20162964

Association of Hearing Impairment and Subsequent Driving Mobility in Older Adults

Hearing impairment (HI) is associated with driving safety (e.g., increased crashes and poor on-road driving performance). However, little is known about HI and driving mobility | The Gerontologist

Image source: Nicolas Alejandro - Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Image source: Nicolas Alejandro – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Purpose of the Study: This study examined the longitudinal association of audiometric hearing with older adults’ driving mobility over 3 years.

Results: Individuals with moderate or greater HI performed poorly on the UFOV, indicating increased risk for adverse driving events (p < .001). No significant differences were found among older adults with varying levels of HI for driving mobility (p values > .05), including driving cessation rates (p = .38), across time.

Implications: Although prior research indicates older adults with HI may be at higher risk for crashes, they may not modify driving over time. Further exploration of this issue is required to optimize efforts to improve driving safety and mobility among older adults.

Full reference: Edwards, J.D. et al. (2017) Association of Hearing Impairment and Subsequent Driving Mobility in Older Adults. The Gerontologist. 57 (4)pp. 767-775. 

Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adults Aged 20 to 69 Years

As the US population ages, effective health care planning requires understanding the changes in prevalence of hearing loss | JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery

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Question: What changes have occurred in the prevalence of age- and sex-specific hearing loss during the past decade for adults aged 20 to 69 years?

Findings: Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, this study found that while the prevalence of hearing loss has continued to decline among adults aged 20 to 69 years, adult hearing loss is associated with increasing age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational level, and noise exposure.

Meaning: These results are consistent with a delayed onset of hearing loss to older ages and increased hearing health care needs as the US population grows and ages.

Full reference: Hoffman, H. et al. (2017) Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adults Aged 20 to 69 Years. JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. Vol. 143 (no. 3) pp. 274-285

The Association between Hearing Loss, Postural Control, and Mobility in Older Adults

Degraded hearing in older adults has been associated with reduced postural control and higher risk of falls. Both hearing loss (HL) and falls have dramatic effects on older persons’ quality of life (QoL). A large body of research explored the comorbidity between the two domains | Journal of the American Academy of Audiology

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Image source: Julita B.C. – Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Purpose: The aim of the current review is to describe the comorbidity between HL and objective measures of postural control, to offer potential mechanisms underlying this relationship, and to discuss the clinical implications of this comorbidity.

 

Results: Of 211 screened articles, 7 were included in the systematic review. A significant, positive association between HL and several objective measures of postural control was found in all seven studies, even after controlling for major covariates. Severity of hearing impairment was connected to higher prevalence of difficulties in walking and falls. Physiological, cognitive, and behavioral processes that may influence auditory system and postural control were suggested as potential explanations for the association between HL and postural control.

Conclusions: There is evidence for the independent relationship between HL and objective measures of postural control in the elderly. However, a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying this relationship is yet to be elucidated. Concurrent diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of these two modalities may reduce falls and increase QoL in older adults.

Full reference: Agmon, M. et al. (2017) The Association between Hearing Loss, Postural Control, and Mobility in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. Vol. 28 (no. 06) pp. 575-588