Drug treatments to prevent the onset of tinnitus could soon be developed

The first drug treatments to prevent the onset of tinnitus could soon be developed after doctors discovered how to tone down overactive neurons in the brain.

Researchers from the University Of Leicester have identified a key cellular mechanism that could underlie the development of ringing in the ears following exposure to loud noises.

The discovery could lead to novel tinnitus treatments, and investigations into potential drugs to prevent tinnitus are underway. Although the word tinnitus comes from the Latin for ‘ringing’, the noise can be a buzz, hum or even a whistle – heard in one ear, both ears or in the middle of the head.

For most people the problem is mild, or disappears with time. But for others it can become chronic and almost intolerable. There are currently no drugs available to treat or prevent tinnitus. Scientists have previously speculated that it results from damage to nerve cells connected to the ears.

Lead researcher Dr Martine Hamann said: ‘We need to know the implications of acoustic over-exposure, not only in terms of hearing loss but also what’s happening in the brain and central nervous system.

‘It’s believed that tinnitus results from changes in excitability in cells in the brain – cells become more reactive, in this case more reactive to an unknown sound.’

Dr Hamann and her team looked at cells in an area of the brain called the dorsal cochlear nucleus – the relay carrying signals from nerve cells in the ear to the parts of the brain that decode and make sense of sounds.

Following exposure to loud noises, some of the nerve cells in the dorsal cochlear nucleus start to fire erratically, and this uncontrolled activity eventually leads to tinnitus.

Dr Hamann said: ‘We showed that exposure to loud sound triggers hearing loss a few days after the exposure to the sound. It also triggers this uncontrolled activity in the neurons of the dorsal cochlear nucleus. ‘This is all happening very quickly, in a matter of days.’

In a key breakthrough, the team also discovered the specific cellular mechanism that leads to the neurons’ over-activity. Malfunctions in specific potassium channels that help regulate the nerve cell’s electrical activity mean the neurons cannot return to an equilibrium resting state.

Ordinarily, these cells only fire regularly and therefore regularly return to a rest state. However, if the potassium channels are not working properly, the cells cannot return to a rest state and instead fire continuously in random bursts, creating the sensation of constant noise when none exists.

Dr Hamann said: ‘In normal conditions the channel helps to drag down the cellular electrical activity to its resting state and this allows the cell to function with a regular pattern.

‘After exposure to loud sound, the channel is functioning less and therefore the cell is constantly active, being unable to reach its resting state and displaying those irregular bursts.’

Although many researchers have investigated the mechanisms underlying tinnitus, this is the first time that cellular bursting activity has been characterised and linked to specific potassium channels.

Identifying the potassium channels involved in the early stages of tinnitus opens up new possibilities for preventing tinnitus with early drug treatments. Dr Hamann’s team is currently investigating potential drugs that could regulate the damaged cells, preventing their erratic firing and returning them to a resting state.

If suitable drug compounds are discovered, they could be given to patients who have been exposed to loud noises to protect them against the onset of tinnitus.

These investigations are still in the preliminary stages, and any drug treatment would still be years away. The research was published in the journal Hearing Research.

If you have any questions about tinnitus or any other aspect of hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.

Source: Daily Mail. Read More>

How to Avoid Hearing Loss

You can wear a helmet to protect your head, gloves for your hands and safety glasses for your eyes. You also can take steps to protect your ears from hearing loss that can affect your ability to understand normal speech.

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur painlessly and over an extended period of time. But it doesn’t have to. Dr. Richard Barnes, otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and head and neck surgeon on staff at Des Peres Hospital, provides some guidance.

“Hearing loss happens in the inner ear where small bones help transfer sound vibrations to different cells and nerves,” Barnes said. “The brain then interprets these signals as sounds such as music, a baby crying or dog barking. Very loud, prolonged noises can start to kill these nerve endings, ultimately resulting in permanent damage.”

Barnes explained that noise can be characterized in three ways: loudness is the intensity of sound measured in decibels; pitch, or the frequency of sound vibrations per second, is gauged in hertz or kilohertz; and duration is the length of time the noise is heard.

“Loudness and duration have a direct impact on each other,” Barnes said. “The louder the sound, the shorter the exposure can be before hearing is affected.”

The human ear hears sound on a scale of zero to more than 180 decibels. Ears can be damaged by sounds at or above 85 decibels. To get some idea of how loud is loud, a whisper is about 30 decibels, normal conversation is 60, motorcycle is 95, loud rock concert is 110 and firecracker is 150.

Barnes points out you may not notice hearing loss because it can develop over a period of several years. But you could become aware of a ringing or other sound in your ear called tinnitus. You also could gradually start to have a harder time understanding what people say, especially in noisy places.

“One of the first symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss is the inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as birds singing,” Barnes said. “Lower pitched sounds also become more difficult to understand as the damage progresses.”

Dr. Barnes suggests a few ways to protect your ears against hearing loss:

  • You can start by avoiding or limiting exposure to extremely loud sounds, turning down the volume of loud music and moving away from loud sounds when possible.
  • You also can use sound-absorbing materials such as a rubber mat under a noisy kitchen appliance and not use several noisy machines at the same time or drown out unwanted noise with other sounds.
  • Another important way to ensure against hearing loss is to wear hearing protection devices such as earplugs or earmuffs when in an excessively noisy environment. For example, earplugs or earmuffs should be worn when riding a motorcycle, firing a gun, using power tools or operating noisy yard equipment.

“Earplugs can quiet up to 25 decibels of sound and may mean the difference between dangerous and safe levels of noise,” Barnes said.

If you think that you may have hearing loss, talk with your physician or contact Hidden Hearing.

What is Otosclerosis?

Otosclerosis is an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear that causes hearing loss.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of otosclerosis is unknown. However, there is some evidence that it may be passed down through families.

People who have otosclerosis have an abnormal sponge-like bone growing in the middle ear. This growth prevents the ear from vibrating in response to sound waves. Such vibrations are needed in order for you to hear.

Otosclerosis is the most frequent cause of middle ear hearing loss in young adults. It typically begins in early to mid-adulthood. It is more common in women than in men. The condition usually affects both ears.

Risks for this condition include pregnancy and a family history of hearing loss. Caucasians are more likely to develop this condition than others.

Symptoms

  • Hearing loss may occur slowly at first but continue to get worse.
  • You may hear better in noisy environments that quiet ones.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) may also occur.

Signs and tests

A hearing test (audiometry /audiology) may help determine the severity of hearing loss.

A special imaging test of the head called a temporal-bone CT may be used to rule out other causes of hearing loss.

Treatment

Otosclerosis may slowly get worse. The condition may not require treatment until you having severe hearing problems.

Medications such as fluoride, calcium, or vitamin D may help to slow the hearing loss, but the benefits have not yet been proved.

A hearing aid may be used to treat the hearing loss. This will not cure or prevent hearing loss from getting worse, but may help relieve some of the symptoms.

Surgery to remove part of the ear (stapes) and replace it with a prosthesis can cure conductive hearing loss. A total replacement is called a stapedectomy. Sometimes a laser is used to make a hole in the stapes to allow placement of the prosthetic device. This is called a stapedotomy.

Expectations (prognosis)

Otosclerosis gets worse without treatment, but surgery may restore at least some hearing. Pain and dizziness related to surgery usually goes away within a few weeks.

To reduce the risk of complications after surgery:

  • Do not blow your nose for 1 week after surgery.
  • Avoid people with respiratory or other infections.
  • Avoid bending, lifting, or straining, which may cause dizziness.
  • Avoid loud noises or sudden pressure changes such as scuba diving, flying, or driving in the mountains until healed.

If surgery is unsuccessful, total hearing loss may occur. Treatment then involves developing skills to cope with deafness, including use of hearing aids and visual cues.

Complications

  • Complete deafness
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection, dizziness, pain, or blood clot in the ear after surgery

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if hearing loss occurs.

Call your health care provider if fever, ear pain, dizziness, or other symptoms develop after surgery.

 If you have any questions about this or any other hearing issue contact Hidden Hearing.

My life was a war against noise

Kevin Barry from Trim, Co Meath, who practises Shaolin Chi Kung to help his tinnitus.Photograph: Alan Betson

MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE: Shaolin Chi Kung saved me from the curse of tinnitus, relates KEVIN BARRY

MY STORY begins in the Canadian city of Calgary. It was here on July 22nd, 2000 that my life took an unexpected and nasty turn as the result of a few hours spent drinking in The Back Alley nightclub.

The music in the nightclub was played at such a loud volume that on leaving the club, both my ears had ringing noises in them. A lot of people experience this phenomenon and typically it is just lasts a few hours and is gone.

Far from being temporary however, the ringing was not gone the next morning, and it wasn’t gone by the next week either. It was to stay for a long time – for the next 10 years of my life, in fact.

On my return from Canada, I went back to university in Cork where I was studying engineering. My tinnitus was getting progressively worse and I was also diagnosed with hyperacusis, which made me even more sensitive to loud noise.

By the autumn of 2001, my tinnitus/hyperacusis had become severe and life had become problematic in many ways.

First, there was the noise – day after day, night after night, year after year of permanent, non-stop, 24/7 loud ringing and hissing noises coming from inside my head. Tinnitus never leaves you because it is in you.

The second problem was not constant, but sporadic in nature. Loud noises hitting ears with severe hyperacusis is like having your tinnitus stretched further. It is difficult to describe. Perhaps one way to think of it is like having your nervous system electrocuted.

And so it follows that the third big problem was the absolute necessity of my avoiding loud noises, regardless of the social consequences. All nightclubs, loud bars, cinemas, live concerts, football stadiums and anything else that involved a lot of noise (such as using a lawnmower) were strictly off-limits to me. Needless to say, my social life became bleak under such constraints.

I had to use ear plugs every day just to cope with ordinary, everyday sounds such as traffic, TV, barking dogs, clanging plates while clearing the dinner table, airports, etc. When I was outdoors I used full earplugs, when I was indoors I used half earplugs.

My life was a war against noise, with every day being a battle. Evading noise was my full-time occupation. It was relentless. Living a life under such conditions is demoralising, depressing and very difficult.

Tinnitus and hyperacusis are so-called incurable diseases, and visits to various doctors confirmed this. So I turned to alternative medicine. I visited many different therapists over the years, from acupuncturists to pranic healers. All of them had two things in common: they never did anything for my tinnitus or hyperacusis, and they cost a small fortune. Which, of course, is not a statement on the efficacy on these therapies, or the therapists. Far from it – it’s just that they never did anything for me.

My introduction to the practice of Chi Kung (often spelt as quigong) came when a friend recommended Daniel Reid’s A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung to me. In August 2003, I went to train in Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung in Co Kerry with Joan Browne, who was to become my sifu (teacher).

And so my journey in the Shaolin arts began. I had, in my hands, the means to effect real and positive change to my health and perhaps, just perhaps, lessen the burden of tinnitus and hyperacusis. But I stopped practising. Over the next five and a half years, I returned to practise Chi Kung many times and then inexplicably stopped again.

Then, in the summer of 2009, I returned to Joan for a day of Chi Kung training and, with no great fanfare, the most amazing thing happened: my practice came together. I practised the day after the class. And the day after that. I am very happy to say that I haven’t missed a single day of practice since . . . and my life has been completely transformed.

Within two weeks of practising twice a day every day, a whole new paradigm of Chi Kung presented itself. It was no longer something I felt I should be doing: it was something I really wanted to do. It felt as natural as brushing my teeth.

Some months after starting my daily practice, I began to experience a wonderful warmth filling my inner left ear, like the sun hitting my skin, and pulses of energy around my ears.

Sometime before that Christmas, I began to feel the faint ripple of something very big. My tinnitus and hyperacusis began to shift.

Then Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, a fourth-generation successor of Jiang Nan of the famous Southern Shaolin Monastery of China, came to Killarney for a festival of Chi Kung. At this festival, I had the most profound spiritual experience of my life. After it, my tinnitus and hyperacusis continued to diminish every day until I was totally free of both.

Over the years, I missed so many social events, but my social life is back on track now and I can enjoy pubs and nightclubs again. More importantly, I can listen to music again. Of all the things I lost through tinnitus and hyperacusis, one of the hardest to swallow was the severing of music from my life.

Chi Kung is part of my daily life now. Practising Shaolin Chi Kung generates a tremendous amount of energy in the body. It works hand in hand with the deep intuitive wisdom we all possess, which knows precisely how to use this energy for our highest good in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

It does this by letting the energy flow to wherever it is most needed, be that on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level.

The beauty of Shaolin Chi Kung lies in its simplicity. By practising it, we simply generate an energy flow and we let our own nature do the rest.

In conversation with MIchelle McDonagh

TINNITUS: WHAT IS IT?

Tinnitus is a condition in which people experience sounds in their ears or head which do not have an external cause.

The noises may be heard as ringing, whistling, roaring, rumbling, clicking or other variations. One or both ears can be affected. The noise may be temporary, it may come and go or it can be permanent.

For more information on tinnitus and where to go for help, seedeafhear.ie/DeafHear/irishTinnitusAssociation.html

SHAOLIN COSMOS CHI KUNG: WHAT IS IT?

Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung is an ancient elite art which was the choice of the emperors in China for maintaining excellent health, mental focus and quick decision-making abilities. Proponents claim this gentle art helps to generate chi or energy around the body to restore good health and happiness to each practising individual. The practice involves learning gentle movements in a chi kung or meditative state which allows the chi to move more easily through the body’s meridian system clearing stagnation.

To find out more, see chikungireland.com

Source: The Irish Times – Tuesday, May 8, 2012/ Read More>

Dad … Dad? DAD! It’s Time to Get a Hearing Test — Part 2

Digital Hearing Solutions from Hidden Hearing

Dad is also concerned a hearing aid would spoil the hearing he still had left, because it would feed back or amplify really loud sounds. I admit, I had wondered about that too.

Modern hearing aids have made great strides. Digital technology allows the hearing aid to monitor and control sound levels. Devices are programmed to cut off at unsafe levels and control feedback as well as isolate specific sounds, making it easier to hear in a crowded room for example.

Wait Not, Want Not

If my father continues to avoid dealing with his hearing loss, the neurological components of his hearing that function properly may atrophy at an accelerated rate. It’s called auditory deprivation.

Reams of studies have been conducted on sound deprived children, adults, and unfortunate baby rats. Google it.

“When you have a hearing loss, you’re depriving the auditory system of the stimulation it needs to run efficiently,” Saunders says.

“The longer you leave a hearing loss untreated, the less efficient the system becomes. It [your brain] forgets how to process certain sounds.”

“Your 90- or 80-year-old self is really going to suffer for your decision at 70 to wait.”

Dad is worried a hearing aid will give him an ear infection. Today’s popular models, called open-fit hearing aids, don’t plug your ear completely. Air and sound enter the ear freely. There is little wax buildup, and you won’t feel like your voice is booming when you speak.

At nearly 74, my father is also concerned a hearing aid will make him look old. (It’s a perfectly legitimate concern for such a handsome guy.)

These days, the only visible part of an open fit hearing aid is a tiny, clear tube going into your ear. The largest part is hidden behind your ear.

“Those tiny hearing aids which tuck behind your ear have advanced technology with directional capabilities,” Saunders says.

There are also implantable hearing aids that stay in your ear for three months at a time. Others fit deep in your ear canal and are removed nightly.

“If somebody wants an inconspicuous hearing aid, we have a ton of options to show them.”

It seems there are several completely invisible options, and an added benefit, according to Saunders, is that “you will appear younger, [because] you’ll be part of the conversation again.”

Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists are health professionals

Here’s another common concern: If you go to get tested at a place that sells hearing aids, are you more likely to end up leaving with one?She objected to the idea that places that both test hearing and fit for hearing aids are doing more than offering a needed service.

“If you’re seeing an audiologist you’re seeing a health professional. Everybody has to have a master’s degree or equivalent,” Kealey says.

Fitting hearing aids is only a small part of what an audiologist does. You may also be tested and fitted by a hearing instrument specialist who is college-trained specifically in hearing aid technology.

The hearing clinics I spoke with use differing combinations of both. Professional conduct doesn’t appear to be the real issue.

“The biggest problem we have is getting people with serious hearing problems in the door for a test,”  “Even if the problem is easy to solve, you’ll never know if you don’t get tested.”

‘Did Kleenex always make a sound?’

The key to a successful experience is working with professionals you feel comfortable with.

Improper device tuning during the fitting process can create unsatisfied customers. A skilled professional will be able to provide you with good results. “What makes the difference between a good hearing aid and a bad one is how it’s programmed.”

In the event that you need to go back a few times to get the programming or the fit just right, you need to feel confident you will get excellent service and all the time you need.

It is also important that people get assistance and counseling when acclimatizing to the change in their hearing.

Saunders says some clients have forgotten what the world really sounds like. Accustomed to living with hearing loss, they are not used to hearing natural sounds at normal levels. “They ask, ‘Did Kleenex always make a sound?’”

If you have any questions about the latest hearing aids and digital technology contact Hidden Hearing.

Source The Epoch Times: Read More>

Dad … Dad? DAD! It’s Time to Get a Hearing Test

Untreated hearing loss has a lot of social and emotional consequences, and loss in communication is typical.

You’d better take a deep breath and call from the top of your lungs if you want him to hear you from the living room.

Forget about talking to him on the phone—he won’t even answer it. He calls you a “mumbler.” The television volume is on max, always.

He just won’t admit he can’t hear and he won’t get tested. Sound familiar? Well, he’s my dad. Is he yours too?

He’s driving my mom crazy. “Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t hear you,’ he says, ‘you never told me,’” explains my mother. Miscommunication causes conflict, which is never good for a marriage.

Social activities have become more difficult for my parents. “It’s very annoying in the middle of plays, movies, or speeches, to have someone say, ‘What did he say?’ Now you have to stop listening to the rest of it to answer,” complains my mother.

When mom attempts to answer, dad will often respond “No, no. Not that. The other thing they said!” Other people in the audience fail to find this banter amusing.

My father’s hearing loss is becoming a source of resentment, especially because he’s refusing to acknowledge it. Now mom feels she’s stuck with his problem.

Loss in Communication

The loss in communication is typical, Hearing loss deteriorates slowly over time. Often the person with the hearing loss isn’t aware of the depth of the problem.

“People with hearing loss live in a world in which others expect them to hear normally. They may find themselves ridiculed, ignored or the target of anger and frustration,”

“If left untreated, hearing loss is proven to negatively impact interpersonal and family relationships.”

And so, in support of my mother (and maybe your mother too), I sought to find out all about hearing aids and hearing tests, or die trying.  According to the Canadian Association of Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA) 10 percent of the general population, 20 percent of those over 65, and 40 percent of those over 75 have a significant hearing problem.

It seems my parents are certainly not alone.

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3

I decided to get my hearing tested. I called for an appointment. Most places that dispense hearing aids offer free testing. The tests are similar no matter where you go.

The first test involved plugging my ears and changing the air pressure in the canal followed by some rather loud tones played at a couple of frequencies.

Changing the air pressure tests the health of the eardrum. The loud sounds test the acoustic reflex, in short, the strength of the stapedius muscle that controls the movement of the stapes in response to loud noise.

The stapes and the stapedius are the smallest bone and muscle in the human body. They indirectly connect to the eardrum to transmit sound.

If the test findings are outside normal range, you will be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist before being fitted with a hearing device. “We would always want to get medical clearance first,”

What happens if there’s a blockage? It may be good news. Taking the wax out of your ear is much cheaper than a hearing aid. It saved my grandmother several thousand dollars! Lucky for her, wax was her only problem.

Next, I was placed in a booth with glass windows. Each ear is individually tested at a variety of volumes and frequencies. When you hear a sound, you press a button. Simple.

Next comes the word recognition test. It tests how clearly you hear. Though generally in English, you can call around to different hearing clinics for an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist who speaks your language.

My test was completed in under an hour. Apparently my hearing was “excellent.”

Effective Communication Saves Time

It’s time to address father’s many concerns about hearing aids, which my mother wrongly calls excuses.

My dad has always been a chronic over-achiever, which is why he’s fun to be around. Instead of retiring, he’s busy running an art college. He says he simply has no time for a hearing test.

Unfortunately, people with hearing loss may end up creating extra work for themselves because of ineffective communication, resulting in lost time.

“If you invest time in your hearing, you save time because you become a more effective communicator,” says Bennett, “Plus it’s exhausting straining to hear all day.”

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

Source: The EpochTimes/ read more>

How tinnitus nearly ruined my career: Coldplay star Chris Martin reveals he has been suffering ear torment for years

Painful: Chris Martin, says he suffers from headaches and ringing in the ears and is encouraging young people to wear earplugs

After doctors warned him the tinnitus could end his musical career, he began wearing earplugs at concerts and when he is performing.

He said: ‘Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem.

‘I’ve had tinnitus for about ten years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse – touch wood.

‘But I wish I’d thought about it earlier.

‘Now [the band] always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try to protect our ears.

‘You can use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.’

The singer, who is married to Gwyneth Paltrow, makes sure his children, Apple, seven, and Moses, six, are protected from loud music at all times.

Apple was pictured wearing giant ear defenders at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in 2005.

However, Martin isn’t the only famous tinnitus sufferer.

Rapper Plan B has also been stricken by the condition for some time – but initially thought he was just hearing passing trains.

He said: ‘At first I thought it was trains rushing by as I live near a railway line.

‘It’s caused by years of being subjected to loud music.’

Cars hitmaker Gary Numan added that he is no longer able to mix music after damaging his hearing.

He said: ‘I didn’t look after my ears and I’m in trouble.’

Advice: The singer, who is married to Gwyneth Paltrow, says he makes sure his children are protected from loud music at all times

All three stars are backing a new charity campaign, Action On Hearing Loss, which aims to get more people to wear ear defenders at gigs and clubs.

Tinnitus is caused when hair cells in the ears are damaged by exposure to loud noise and cause a whistling, ringing or buzzing sound when there is none.

Some sufferers hear a sound constantly, while for others it is intermittent.

Meanwhile, Martin’s wife Gwyneth’s mother Blythe Danner revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail that she used to wear earplugs at Coldplay concerts.

The 69-year-old actress admitted that she never used to like their music and would wear earplugs to block out the loud notes at their shows, but over the years the group have won her over with their songs.

She said: ‘I’m mostly a jazz fan and I’ve never really been into rock ‘n’ roll music – although I guess Coldplay isn’t really rock ‘n’ roll – but he’s made me a convert.

‘I do go to their concerts whenever we’re in the same town and I don’t even have to wear earplugs any more, which I did in the beginning. He wrote the song ‘Fix You’ for Gwyneth when her father died and I weep every time I hear it.’ If you suffer from tinnitus or have any questions about hearing loss or any aspect of hearing contact Hidden Hearing.

Source: the Daily Mail: Read More>