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.
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
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has released its report into Access to Work which highlights the problems deaf people have experienced in getting adequate support through the scheme. The report specifically mentions how reductions to BSL support have had a detrimental impact on deaf people.
The report makes a number of recommendations for how the scheme could be strengthened in the future, including the need to ensure that there is more engagement and consultation with scheme users, improvements to training so that staff are better informed about the needs of scheme users and changes to make the scheme more accessible, such as the introduction of an online application system.
View the full report, Improving Access to Work for disabled people here
Audiology World News Preliminary findings of a new study on dementia have found that correction of hearing loss with hearing aids may delay the onset of mild dementia.
Earlier studies have shown that people with hearing impairment are significantly more likely to develop dementia in old age compared to those with normal hearing. There is however no evidence to date that correcting hearing can effectively improve dementia. Previous research has also demonstrated a reduction in cognitive decline among study participants who use hearing aids.
This was what motivated researchers from the University of North Texas (USA) to partner with audiologists from Unitron to conduct the study aimed at assessing the possible relationship between improved hearing and cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The study called ‘Hearing Aids and Dementia’ enrolled adults aged 50 to 90 years with mild dementia who were inexperienced with hearing amplification devices. It measures speech-recognition performance in noise, cognition, and self-reported improvement in quality of life.
If the preliminary positive findings are confirmed, they could have significant implications for aging individuals as they begin experiencing hearing loss. Study completion is expected in late 2015
Only two-fifths (41 per cent) of NHS audiology departments give tinnitus sufferers access to four key services needed to help manage their condition, according to a new report from charity Action on Hearing Loss launched to mark Tinnitus Awareness Week.
Freedom of Information requests, issued by the charity to every NHS adult audiology provider across the UK, reveals a postcode lottery of care for tinnitus patients with six audiology units not providing any tinnitus services at all and a further nine units having had to reduce services over the past two years.
View the research briefing here
To mark Tinnitus Awareness Week (2 – 8 February), UK charity Action on Hearing Loss
announced a major investment to fund a new study at Newcastle University, which aims to
accelerate the development of future tinnitus treatments.
Six million people in the UK are affected by tinnitus every day – ranging from a light buzzing to a
constant roar in the ears and head – with 600,000 seriously affected by the condition, which can
have a detrimental effect on quality of life including bouts of anxiety, difficulties socialising and
problems sleeping or being able to concentrate at work.
The three year, £300,000 project will be led by Dr Mark Cunningham at Newcastle University and
will involve researchers at Leicester University and the biotechnology company Autifony
Therapeutics Ltd, who are currently conducting a clinical trial of a drug for tinnitus.
The pioneering research aims to bridge the gap between promising laboratory research
discoveries and testing new medicines in tinnitus patients.
View the full press release here