How hearing loss impacts brain function

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We already know that there is a correlation between hearing loss and decreased brain function. But how does this work exactly?

A study from 2015 focused on neuroplasticity – how the brain reorganizes itself by forming new neuron connections throughout life – and found that in the case of hearing loss, the part of the brain devoted to hearing can actually become reorganized, i.e. reassigned to other functions.

By using EEG recordings the researchers found that when hearing loss occurs areas of the brain devoted to other senses, such as vision or touch, will actually take over the areas of the brain which normally process hearing. It’s a phenomenon called cross-modal cortical reorganization, which is reflective of the brain’s tendency to compensate for the loss of other senses. Essentially, the brain adapts to a loss by rewiring itself. It is a makeover of sorts, but one that can have a serious effect on cognition.

In people with hearing loss, this compensatory system greatly reduces the brain’s ability to process sound, which in turn affects a person’s ability to understand speech. And even with mild hearing loss, the hearing areas of the brain become weaker. What happens next is that the areas of the brain that are necessary for higher level thinking, compensate for the weaker areas. They step in and essentially take over for hearing, leaving them unavailable to do their primary job.

“The hearing areas of the brain shrink in age-related hearing loss,” said Anu Sharma, PhD, a researcher on the University of Colorado study. “Centers of the brain that are typically used for higher-level decision-making are then activated in just hearing sounds. These compensatory changes increase the overall load on the brains of aging adults. Compensatory brain reorganization secondary to hearing loss may also be a factor in explaining recent reports in the literature that show age-related hearing loss is significantly correlated with dementia.”

Even in the early stages of hearing loss, the brain begins to reorganize. Knowing this, the solution could be as simple as early hearing loss screening programs for adults.

Read the whole article at Healthy Hearing 

What is sound? Could you explain it to an 11-year-old?

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Are you up to the challenge of this year’s big science competition: explaining the science of sound to 11-year-olds?

Since 2012, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York has organized an annual competition, asking scientists — graduate students, professors or alan-alda-soundretired — to explain complicated concepts in an engaging and easy-to-understand way. Hundreds of researchers have stepped forward, answering questions about color, sleep, time and flame.

Each year, children submit questions they want answered. Actor Alan Alda presents the winning question to scientists, and asks that they submit a 300-word explanation, a graphic response or a 5-minute video explaining the concept.

“There are so many ways in which sounds affect us, so many ways that different animals use sound, and so many kinds of sound,” Alda said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see how creatively scientists will explain exactly what sound is. The kids and I are all ears.”

How would YOU explain the concept of sound?

The contest deadline is Jan. 19, 2016. Learn more about the rules at the center’s website.

Cochlear presented clear patient benefits with the Baha 5 Systems at OSSEO 2015

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This past week the 5th International Symposium on Bone Conduction Hearing and Related Technologies (OSSEO) took place in beautiful Lake Louise, Canada.

The conference is held every two years and brings professionals, academics and researchers in the bone conduction field together, to discuss the latest scientific research and technologies.

Cochlear introduced the new Baha 5 Systems, featuring the most advanced technology in the industry. The Baha 5 Systems provide users with a choice between two systems and a sound processor with direct to device streaming connectivity.

The Baha Connect System has been updated with more abutment options and the Baha Attract System features new Sound Processor Magnets with Colour covers to further improve aesthetics and discreetness.

Several well-known clinicians shared their experiences with Cochlear’s new bone conduction systems and the benefits they provide:

Mr. Will Brassington, Head of Audiology at Nottingham University Hospital, UK, and Denise Lees, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, presented results from their clinical experience with the Baha 5 Sound Processor. Users reported high levels of satisfaction with the new small and smart sound processor and its smart connectivity. They rated the Baha 5 highly on both sound quality, speech understanding, feedback performance and listening outdoors.

Dr. Ricardo Cristobal, Texas Ear Clinic in Texas, US, presented his clinical experience with 11 children who have transitioned between the Baha Connect and the Baha Attract Systems.

Dr Myrte Hol from Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, reported on their experience of the Baha Attract System with 21 patients from an ongoing multicentre clinical investigation.

Dr. Pete Weber from UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worchester, Massachusetts, US, presented his outcomes with the Baha Attract System including 48 patients, all showing good hearing outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction.

Read more here

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Cochlear Science and Research Seminar on bone conduction hearing

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As part of our commitment to research, Cochlear runs an ongoing Science and Research Seminar series for medical professionals. The latest seminar was on “Bone conduction hearing” and held in Berlin on 22-23 January.

The seminars are on topics at the vanguard of our industry and this particular seminar aimed to investigate the latest outcomes relating to the Baha BI300 implant, the Baha DermaLock abutment and the Baha Attract System.

At Cochlear, we see these seminars as an integral part of what we do – to understand the latest outcomes, to investigate potentially new treatment options/techniques and to disseminate best clinical practice to all our customers.

With 16 speakers over two half days, there were many highlights – particularly these listed below:

  • The host for the seminar, Prof. Michal Luntz from Bnai Zion Medical Center and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, presented results on the performance of the Baha Attract System, as did several other speakers. All concluded in their research that the system offers great outcomes for mixed and conductive hearing loss types, while also being an attractive option from a cosmetic point of view.
  • Ms Charlotte Jespersen from GN ReSound highlighted possible benefits when using the Cochlear Wireless Accessories, available for both Cochlear’s Baha and Cochlear Implant recipients. Recipients can expect significant hearing performance benefits, particularly for noisy and difficult listening environments.
  • Last, but not least, the possibility of “transitioning” from an abutment type system to a Baha Attract System was presented by Prof. Jaydip Ray (Sheffield Teaching Hospitals). Based on results achieved to date, this is a definite possibility for certain Baha users.

All in all it was a fantastic two days of science and research!

~ Colin Irwin, Senior Clinical Studies Specialist, Cochlear

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