Every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20%

Recent research has found a relationship between hearing loss and the onset of memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease.

In a September online report in the journal Psychology and Aging, Canadian researchers compared the hearing ability of 74 musicians aged 19 to 91 and 89 non-musicians aged 18 to 86.

They defined a musician as someone who started musical training by age 16, had the equivalent of six years of formal lessons, and continued practicing until the day of testing. The non-musicians did not play any musical instrument.

They gave both groups four different auditory tests, and found that while musicians did not have any advantage over non-musical peers in being able to detect sounds as they grew steadily more quiet, they were better able to hear speech over background noise, detect short gaps in sound and detect differences in frequencies, and these gaps only widened with age.

For instance, by age 70, the average musician was able to understand speech in a noisy environment as well as an average 50-year-old non-musician.

“Being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in auditory processing in the brain,” said Benjamin Zendel, lead investigator for the study at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto. He noted that the ability to hear a tone is not directly dependent on those brain circuits.

An earlier study, published in May online by PLoS One — a peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science — also found that musical training can offset some of the memory deficits of aging.

Researchers at Northwestern University found that longtime musicians aged 45 to 65 bested non-musicians in the same age group in tests of auditory memory and the ability to hear speech in noisy environments.

The scientists tested 18 musicians who had started playing an instrument at age 9 or earlier and consistently played throughout their lives against 19 non-musicians.

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern, said the experience of musicians at extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape, and remembering sequences of sound, builds up hearing skills that seem to help offset declines that might otherwise occur with aging.

“The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or ‘volume knob’ effect,” Kraus said, but rather a result of brain connections that help individuals better process sound.

Finally, there’s the September report in the Archives of Neurology that found older adults with hearing loss appear to be more likely to develop dementia.

The study, part of a long-term project funded by the National Institute on Aging out of Johns Hopkins University, tracked 639 people aged 36 to 90 tested for hearing loss between 1990 and 1994.

Researchers found that by 2008, 58 of them had developed dementia, including 37 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. And those who were experiencing hearing loss at the start of the study were much more likely to develop dementia.

Specifically, the scientists found that for every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20 percent.

The lead author, Dr. Frank Lin, said it seems logical that the effects of hearing loss could lead to social isolation and mental strain and thus leave an individual more at risk for dementia, but said it’s also possible that hearing loss is a symptom of dementia. He’s trying to find out by studying whether older adults who wear hearing aids obtain any cognitive advantage.

“Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language, exhaust cognitive reserve and lead to social isolation” no matter what other conditions may exist, said Sergi Kochkin, executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.

Other research suggests that people may devote extra mental resources trying to hear and process sound to such an extent that other aspects of functional memory are harmed.




Michael Jackson’s hearing starts in Los Angeles

Tuesday was opening day of Dr. Conrad Murray's hearing on the Death of Michael Jackson in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors told jurors Tuesday that Michael Jackson was killed by the actions of his personal physician, who used a dangerous anesthetic without adequate safeguards and botched recovery efforts when he found the singer unconscious.

Defence attorneys countered that Jackson caused his own death by taking the drug propofol after his doctor left the room in a desperate attempt to overcome his chronic inability to sleep.

Nothing Dr. Conrad Murray could have done would have saved the King of Pop, defence attorney Ed Chernoff told the panel, because Jackson was desperate to regain his fame and needed rest to prepare for a series of crucial comeback concerts.

The competing versions of Jackson’s death and Murray’s role in it were laid out in opening statements at the physician’s involuntary manslaughter trial.

Speaking for more than an hour, prosecutor David Walgren relied heavily on photos and audio recordings to make his case that Murray was an inept and reckless caretaker of Jackson.

He showed a photo of a lifeless Jackson on a hospital gurney, and played a recording of Jackson speaking to Murray while the prosecutor said he was under the influence of an unknown substance roughly six weeks before his death.

The singer’s speech was heavily slurred but recognizable as the international superstar. He spoke of his hopes for the upcoming concerts.

“We have to be phenomenal,” Jackson is heard telling Murray. “When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, ‘I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I’ve never seen nothing like this. Go. It’s amazing. He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.”

Murray is accused of giving Jackson a lethal dose of propofol in the bedroom of the singer’s rented mansion, but Chernoff said Jackson gave himself the fatal dose.

He claimed the singer swallowed several pills of the sedative lorazepam on the morning of his death and that was enough to put six people to sleep. He also said Jackson self-ingested propofol, and it killed him instantly.

Jackson did not even have a chance to close his eyes, Chernoff said.

In his opening remarks, Walgren said Murray was grossly negligent by providing Jackson propofol. The prosecutor said while working for Jackson, the doctor was shipped more than four gallons of the anesthetic, which is normally given in hospital settings.

He said Jackson trusted Murray as his physician.

“That misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life,” Walgren said.

“He left him there, abandoned him to fend for himself,” the prosecutor said later while winding down his opening remarks.

The doctor had initially requested $5 million to work for the singer for a year, but accepted the lower rate of $150,000 U.S. a month, Walgren said. His contract to be Jackson’s personal physician was never signed and he was never paid.

He told jurors that Murray deceived paramedics and emergency room doctors by not telling them he had been giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid. He also called the doctor inept and said he repeatedly deviated from the standard of care by leaving the singer alone while under sedation and not immediately calling 911 when he found the singer was unconscious.

Murray never called for emergency services himself, instead waiting more than 20 minutes to have one of Jackson’s bodyguards make the call.

“Basic common sense requires 911 be called immediately,” Walgren said. “Basic common sense. And we know that was not done.”

Chernoff told jurors it was not their job to determine whether Murray was a good doctor. He said Murray and Jackson were actually friends, and Murray was trying to wean Jackson off of propofol. Jackson, however, took a lethal dose before he died, the lawyer said.

At times during the defence attorney’s opening statements, Murray appeared to be crying and wiped his eyes with a tissue.

Testimony was expected to begin later in the day, with prosecutors planning to call the pop superstar’s friend and choreographer, Kenny Ortega.

A number of Jackson’s family members were in the courthouse, including his father Joseph, mother Katherine, sisters LaToya and Janet, and brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito.

LaToya Jackson carried a sunflower, Michael’s favourite flower.

Murray arrived holding hands with his mother.

If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.

The link between hearing loss and diabetes

We are becoming more aware of diabetes and its effects.

Diabetes – It is a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and blindness.

However, hearing loss may be an under-recognised complication of a disease that is becoming increasingly common, not just here, but around the world.

Recent research has suggested that hearing loss, a frequent problem for ageing adults, is more prevalent in people with diabetes, Hunter New England Health nurse audiometrist Gai Downes said.

‘‘In fact, some studies have shown that hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes, compared to those who don’t have the disease,’’ Gai said.

‘‘And for those aged under 60, hearing loss was found to be three times more common for people with diabetes than for those who did not have it.’’

‘‘We would certainly encourage people with diabetes to have an annual diagnostic hearing assessment as a routine part of their diabetes cycle of care,’’ Gai said.

More comprehensive than screening assessment, diagnostic audiometry is able to indicate middle ear function and the type of hearing loss detected.

It is estimated that within 10 years of diagnosis, 73per cent of people with diabetes will have a hearing loss.

‘‘There are a lot of major factors that are known to affect hearing loss – such as age, ethnicity, noise exposure, disease, and heredity factors – and the link between diabetes and hearing loss has been debated over the decades,’’ Gai said.

‘‘But recent research has shown a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes.

‘‘There seems to be an earlier onset and accelerated loss of hearing thresholds in those with diabetes.’’

Diabetes is one of our fastest growing chronic disease. It is estimated that for every person diagnosed, another is undiagnosed.

Although more work needs to be done in the area, researchers suggest that diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.

Hearing loss also affects people’s quality of life. It can negatively affect people’s ability to participate in education about diabetes or other conditions and it has been linked to a lack of adherence with medical regimes.

‘‘Hearing loss is often gradual and many patients are unaware they have difficulties hearing,’’ Gai said.

‘‘Sometimes it is family members or friends who first notice the problem.’’

If you have any questions about hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.

Fluctuating hearing loss and Meniere’s Disease

Symptoms will usually come on in bouts, lasting for two to three hours, and then subside.

The main symptoms of Meniere’s disease are recurring episodes of vertigo that last anywhere from 20 minutes up to 24 hours, tinnitus (typically low-pitched with Meniere’s disease), a feeling of pressure of fullness in the ear, and hearing loss. Hearing loss may come and go in early stages of the disease but as the disease progresses there typically will be some permanent hearing loss. Symptoms will usually come on in bouts, lasting for two to three hours, and then subside, and often a series of episodes will occur followed by periods of remission.

The cause of Meniere’s disease isn’t well understood but is believed to be closely tied to the fluid in the inner ear. Our inner ear contains a fluid that helps us to maintain our balance and equilibrium. With Meniere’s disease there are changes to the volume and the composition of this inner ear fluid, causing problems with the healthy functioning of our ear and affecting our hearing and our balance. These changes to the ear fluid may be caused by improper fluid drainage (either because of a blockage or because of an anatomic abnormality), abnormal immune response, allergies, viral infection, genetic predisposition, or head trauma.

Meniere’s disease is considered a chronic condition, and treatment focuses on management: relieving symptoms and minimizing the long term impacts of the disease. Treatment includes motion sickness or anti-nausea medications for the vertigo, diuretic medications to reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear, medication injections to the inner ear to relieve vertigo, hearing aids, and rehabilitative exercises to help improve balance and coordination. Surgery may be considered in severe cases.

In Chinese medicine, Meniere’s disease is classified as a type of dizziness. There are important lifestyle factors that contribute to its development. Emotional strain, which can be caused by too much stress or by anger, frustration, or resentment, can lead to health imbalances that over time can lead to chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease. Overwork or pushing ourselves too hard without adequate rest over years can also deplete the body and lead to health issues. Diet is another important factor, as unhealthy eating particularly the excessive consumption of greasy foods or dairy products or poor or irregular eating habits lead to problems down the road. All of these factors over time contribute to the development of health problems, which is why Meniere’s disease typically develops in middle age.

Acupuncture is a worthwhile option to consider for those suffering from Meniere’s disease. Because Western medicine has difficulty treating this condition, often people are looking for effective options to help manage the disease. The good news is that acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of Meniere’s disease and may also help to improve or resolve the condition. Treatment can help to relieve the dizziness and vertigo, tinnitus, feeling of fullness or pressure in the head, and to reduce the frequency of bouts of symptoms. Over time and with continued treatments, acupuncture may also help to resolve the condition. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be of particular benefit to the condition as herbal formulas can help to augment the results of acupuncture. Due to the chronic nature of this condition, Meniere’s may be slow to treat and may take time to achieve lasting results. Acupuncture demonstrates that there is hope for difficult, chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease.

If you have any questions about hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.

How can I prepare my mother for winter?

A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

With winter approaching, I’m worried about my 83-year-old mother.  She still enjoys an active lifestyle.  How can I help prepare her for the change in seasons so that she remains healthy all winter?


The first thing you should do is to make sure all of your mum’s doctor’s visits are up to date.  Find out if your mother could benefit from a flu shot by contacting her GP.  If your mother’s doctor recommends any special winter-weather regimen – like variations in diet or vitamins – remind your mother that it’s time to start observing those again.

As soon as the weather cools down, talk with your mother about the need to dress properly.  Several layers of loose-fitting clothing can help insulate the body by trapping warm, dry air inside.  Loosely woven cotton and wool clothes best trap air and resist dampness.

The head and neck are among the most vulnerable parts of the body when the weather cools down.  They lose heat faster than anywhere else.  Cheeks, ears and nose are the most prone to frostbite.  That’s why your mother should always be wearing a hat and scarf to protect her.

If the weather gets rainy or snowy where your mother lives, make sure that any outdoor repairs have been made.  Loose railings and cracked paths should be repaired well in advance of inclement weather.  Check inside too. Are there any draughty windows or doors that need to be repaired. If her house is large, suggest she closes off some rooms during the winter months to save on heating. Lock the windows, draw the curtains and check the ventilation grille is clear before putting a draught excluder at the door and closing it up until the warmer weather returns.

Ice is a big danger so make sure you, or someone else, is on stand-by to automatically pop over to your mum’s house if there is a frosty night. Get them to check the steps and/or path outside her door and if necessary salt the path at night to prevent ice build up. If she has steps outside consider adding a safety handrail.

Eating properly is important too. It can be all too easy to start relying on convenience foods, particularly if the weather outside doesn’t make you want to go out. So make sure your mum has plenty of healthy staples in her cupboards. Soup is ideal and easy to prepare as well as being warming. If your mum isn’t up to cooking for herself you could leave a flask of hot soup available to get her through the day or check if a local Meals-on-Wheels service is available in her area. Encourage her to take regular hot drinks too to keep her hydration and temperature levels up.

It may be time for your mother to have a little extra help to ensure her safety, especially in the winter.  Home helpers and companions can assist your mum with errands and shopping when the weather is bad and she doesn’t want to get out.  They can become trusted friends as well as assistants for seniors like your mum.  It’ll also give you peace of mind to know there’s someone keeping a regular eye on her when you can’t be there.

Busting a few myths about hearing loss

Hearing loss affects only older people. While one third of the people over 60 have a hearing loss, 65% of all people with hearing loss are below 64 years of age.

With hearing loss becoming increasingly prevalent, we set out to uncover some myths commonly found around the topics of hearing loss, hearing care and hearing aids. Strap on your helmet and let’s dive into a round of solid “mythbusting”.

1. Cleaning my ears with cotton swabs is good for my hearing. Most still hear the voice of their moms telling us to clean our ears with a cotton swap. This can do more harm than good, since there is a risk of the eardrum getting damaged. Contrary to common belief, ear wax actually has a beneficial function: it contains beneficial oils that lubricate and protect the skin of the ear canal. It also traps dust and other particles and keeps them from reaching the sensitive eardrum. If you feel that you have excessive earwax to the point that it affects your hearing, we recommend you to visit a doctor.

2. Hearing loss affects everyone equally. Men are more likely to exhibit hearing loss than women, making up 60% of all hearing impaired. While there are multiple factors, it is often attributed to more exposure to stress, an increased likelihood of noise at work, higher incidence of head injuries.

3.Hearing loss affects only older people. While one third of the people over 60 have a hearing loss, 65% of all people with hearing loss are below 64 years of age.

4. The implications of wearing a hearing aid are worse than not having one. Not following the key part of a discussion, or not being able to laugh at joke for the nth time or having the “what?” and “huh?” as part of your standard vocabulary, make an untreated hearing loss far more apparent than a hearing aid. Isolation and a dent on your self-esteem are only the mild implications; studies have shown that there is a clear correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia and/or depression. Don’t let vanity get in the way; there are people with far more limelight exposure who have acknowledged and treated their hearing problems.

5. Hearing Aids are massive, bulky and clearly visible. They used to be – a long while ago. Nowadays, hearing aids are tiny  and fit almost invisibly behind the ear or invisible in the ear canal. In fact, you probably haven’t noticed the vast majority of people who wear modern hearing aids.

6. Hearing aids will make everything louder, but not “clearer”. Historically this has been a common concern with older analog devices. However, modern hearing aids have evolved substantially over the last 5 years due to the introduction of digital technology and better signal processing software. This means that noise cancellation algorithms inside the hearing aid are constantly working on filtering out noise and feedback. This is particularly relevant when understanding speech in noisy environments, like for example in a restaurant.

7. Hearing loss affects only a small proportion of the population. Really? Think again. Hearing loss is the 3rd most prevalent condition after cardiovascular disease and arthritis. It affects approximately 1 in 9 people.

8. Hearing loss is unavoidable, it’s partly genetics and everyone eventually gets it That’s a pretty fatalistic view. While heritage can play a role, there are a lot of things you can do to delay hearing loss or avoid it altogether. You can start by protecting your ears from continuous exposure to loud sounds, altering your diet, quitting smoking and generally leading a more balanced life.

Thank you Offaly for the Free screenings!

As seen in the Offaly Express Hidden Hearing is offering free hearing screenings to Offaly senior citizens throughout Positive Ageing Week (September 23 to October 1). The free screenings will be available at The Medical Centre, Greenfields, Clonminch Road, Tullamore,


It is estimated that hearing loss affects almost a third of Irish people over the age of 60. Hidden Hearing Marketing Manager, Dolores Madden said, “The key issue is that those who initially notice a problem with their hearing do not take action. In our experience, this is particularly the case when it comes to senior citizens. We hope by offering free screenings it will make it easier for them to take the first step in tackling their hearing loss.”

Hearing loss is an uncomfortable topic for many with over half of sufferers going to great lengths to hide their condition by pretending to hear what people said to them during conversation.

“Our senior citizens need to be encouraged to value and take care of their hearing. It’s important that if you notice issues with your hearing that you address the problem and take positive action,” added Ms Madden.