The IDA Institute – an important body in hearing loss research

Fact_Fluff_Fiction_5At Hidden Hearing we recognise that hearing loss affects people in different ways psychologically and socially. As hearing healthcare providers, we are involved directly in the study of hearing loss. The IDA Institute is an independent, non-profit organization located in Denmark and funded by a grant from the Oticon Foundation. Hidden Hearing has been actively involved as part of discussion and focus groups within the IDA institute. The Institute creates and shares innovative knowledge to help hearing care professionals address the psychological and social challenges of hearing loss and apply patient-centered care methods.

The overall aim of the IDA Institute is to foster a better understanding of the human dynamics associated with hearing loss. The Institute produces some fascinating studies into how people respond to their hearing loss and to the treatment of it. It has carried out extensive studies with couples affected by hearing loss. This is just one video –!  which provides the perspective of one couple of how they deal with the hearing loss in their relationship.

John and Gill from Colchester in UK. Gill has a profound hearing loss. While John supports Gill, the hearing loss is clearly putting a strain on their relationship. Unintentional irritation, lack of patience, loss of spontaneity and even social pain are well-known and common consequences resulting from hearing loss. The hearing loss is “owned” by Gill, but it is clear that John is also to a great extent affected by it, because hearing loss essentially is a matter of social communication – thus not reducible to kilohertz and decibel.

John tells us that he is “acting as an earpiece” for Gill at social gatherings. This means he has taken over some of Gill’s former communication competences in terms of small talk, social networking and even friendly gossiping. People with hearing loss often experience the loss of social competences as a loss of their own identity. : “I am not the person I used to be”. Gill was very much aware of this.

The video uncovers some of the real problems Gill and John are dealing with. It’s important to remember that if you are suffering from hearing loss you are not alone in experiencing these feelings and problems. Discussing them openly and honestly with family, friends or your GP or audiologist, it will help in the hearing rehabilitation journey.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit


‘Pupdate’ on Hero the Hidden Hearing Sponsored Guide Dog.

Hero - The Dog

Hero – The Dog

Hero the training dog sponsored by Hidden Hearing is now well settled in with Puppy Walker Joe.  She will stay with her Puppy Walking family for approximately twelve months until the time comes for her to start her Early Training.  At twelve weeks old Hero got her vaccinations, which means that since then she has been free to be out and about. There is so much for her to get use to. She is now travelling in the car daily. She is also learning to travel on buses and trains. Being out and about socialising with people and other animals is so important for her. She must learn to remain calm and relaxed in noisy and busy situations. She has to get use to simple commands like ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘down’. Her Puppy Walker makes sure Hero gets short but regular exercise every day. Hero has also started to attend Puppy Walking Classes at the National Headquarters and Training Centre. During these classes the Training Team and Puppy Walking Supervisors guide and support Puppy Walkers on how to handle and train pups correctly. Hero is a very busy and clever girl. Stay tuned to hear more on her progress in the coming weeks.

Deaf Village Ireland

396074_400489730011349_679175582_nHidden Hearing was recently invited by the Irish Deaf Society to take a tour of Deaf Village Ireland in Cabra which is a truly outstanding facility on a beautiful landscaped site with the most modern of facilities.

The intention for Deaf Village Ireland is that all the Deaf organisations will work together, literally side by side, to support, promote and develop the Deaf community and adopt a unified approach to ensure that Deaf people have appropriate access to state services and are individually enabled to reach their potential. Deaf people communicate via a combination of sign language, lip reading and the written word which puts the standard educational, sports, employment, training, support and information services as well as communication and socialisation opportunities out of reach for many Deaf people.

The objective of the Deaf Village Ireland Project is to create an environment where Deaf and hard of hearing people can develop, relax, play, learn, worship and be together in a centre which will support the interaction of Deaf people as a community, in an integrated way with each other the wider Irish society. We were taken on a guided tour around the Village, and the design of the buildings is exceptional, a mixture of the old stonework and the new, modern facilities. There is a fully fitted gym and full size swimming pool with pool aerobics and all sorts of activities and the site features much recreational space (30 acres) with outdoor soccer pitches.

The Deaf Village also delivers lifelong learning facilities and citizens information services for the Deaf community throughout Ireland. The team out there is currently working on a Deaf heritage centre with items on show such as hearing aids from years ago.

This was a much-needed facility for the Deaf community and Hidden Hearing was really impressed with the attention to detail and the quality of the development. We would like to thank the Irish Deaf Society for inviting us out and we wish long-lasting success to all of the organisations who are based in Deaf Village Ireland.

Coldplay and The Black Eyed Peas among contributors to hearing loss album

2dda6be01429d0ef982ff7ac676638d0The British Tinnitus Association, in partnership with Xfm’s Eddy Temple-Morris, have unveiled the list of artists set to contribute to a forthcoming tinnitus awareness compilation. Coldplay and theBlack Eyed Peas are amongst the list of artists, all of whom suffer from, or have a member that suffers from, the hearing condition.

The album will be called I Am The One In Ten, drawing its name from the current statistics of tinnitus suffers in the UK. Temple-Morris commented on the announcement stating, “I’m so happy that Chris Martin has given this his blessing. With Coldplay on board, at last we have a real chance to get through to government now… This record could be a game changer.”

According to the CMU website, it’s not just the bands who suffer from the condition – most of the crew involved, from techs to record label reps, are affected by the ailment.

Seems somewhat ironic given the amount of ear damage both Coldplay and BEP have caused to so many throughout their careers.

I Am The One In Ten aims at inspiring research into tinnitus, as well as attracting investment into that area. For those currently unaware, tinnitus is a disorder of the inner ear, often caused by harsh, loud noises, resulting in a high-pitched ringing. It is also thought to cause mental disorders due to the ceaseless nature of the affliction, which can be so bad it causes insomnia.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit

Source Music Written by Mike Hohnen on 23rd January, 2013

Hearing loss speeds up brain decline in older adults

Older-man-exercising-001Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal, according to a new study by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins.

In the study, volunteers with hearing loss, undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years, had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 percent to 40 percent faster than in those whose hearing was normal. Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers say. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

The findings, to be reported in the JAMA Internal Medicine online Jan. 21, are among the first to emerge from a larger, ongoing study monitoring the health of older blacks and whites in Memphis, Tenn., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Known as the Health, Aging and Body Composition, or Health ABC study, the latest report on older adults involved a subset of 1,984 men and women between the ages of 75 and 84, and is believed to be the first to gauge the impact of hearing loss on higher brain functions over the long term. According to senior study investigator and Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., all study participants had normal brain function when the study began in 2001, and were initially tested for hearing loss, which hearing specialists define as recognizing only those sounds louder than 25 decibels.

“Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning,” says Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Our findings emphasize just how important it is for physicians to discuss hearing with their patients and to be proactive in addressing any hearing declines over time,” says Lin. He estimates that as many as 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, suffer from some form of hearing loss. More worrisome, he says, only 15 percent of those who need a hearing aid get one, leaving much of the problem and its consequences untreated.

Possible explanations for the cognitive slide, Lin says, include the ties between hearing loss and social isolation, with loneliness being well established in previous research as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Degraded hearing may also force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound, and at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking. He adds there may also be some common, underlying damage that leads to both hearing and cognitive problems.

Lin and his team already have plans under way to launch a much larger study to determine if use of hearing aids or other devices to treat hearing loss in older adults might forestall or delay cognitive decline.

In the latest study, which began in 1997, all participants were in good general physical health at the time. Hearing tests were given to volunteers in 2001, during which they individually listened to a range of soft and loud sounds, from 0 decibels to 100 decibels, in a soundproof room.

Brain functioning was also assessed in 2001, using two well-recognized tests of memory and thinking ability, known as the Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS) and Digit Symbol Substitution (DSS), respectively. Included in the 3MS test, study participants were asked to memorize words, given commands or instructional tasks to follow, and asked basic questions as to the correct year, date and time. In the DSS test, study participants were asked to match specific numbers to symbols and timed on how long it took them to complete the task. Both types of tests were repeated for each study participant three more times until the study ended in 2007, to gauge cognitive decline. Factors already known to contribute to loss of brain function were accounted for in the researchers’ analysis, including age, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit

A simple chill can ruin your hearing

In Michael Berkeley's case, a cold virus had travelled to his inner ear, causing swelling, compressing and damaging the nerves (picture posed by model)

In Michael Berkeley’s case, a cold virus had travelled to his inner ear, causing swelling, compressing and damaging the nerves (picture posed by model)

The concert at the Royal Albert Hall promised to be a wonderful evening, but a short way into the performance of the British National Orchestra of Wales, Michael Berkeley fled his seat in despair.

He had recently lost most of his hearing as a result of a cold virus, and now the composer and Radio 3 presenter was struggling to cope with his new hearing aids: loud, percussive notes were distorted, chords sounded as if they clashed, and the lightness of the flute was completely lost. It was a devastating moment for a man whose life has revolved around music: Michael has been composing music since the age of six; his father was a composer and, as a child, he sang for his godfather Benjamin Britten. Yet his hearing could possibly have been saved had he been swiftly referred for specialist treatment. Sadly, when he complained of sudden hearing loss, not one but two GPs both dismissed the condition as a temporary complication of a cold. In fact, Michael had sensorineural hearing loss, which can be caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) or to the hearing nerve — or both. In his case, a cold virus had travelled to his inner ear, causing swelling, compressing and damaging the nerves. What distinguishes sensorineural hearing loss from the blocked-up feeling you get with a cold is that the hearing suddenly disappears completely, usually in one ear, but possibly in both.

It needs speedy treatment with steroids to reduce inflammation. As soon as the nerves are compressed, they start to die, explains Myles Black, a consultant ear, nose and throat (ENT) and thyroid surgeon at East Kent University Hospital. However, there is concern that patients could be needlessly losing their hearing because GPs aren’t properly trained to diagnose sensorineural hearing loss. The average length of time trainee doctors spend in the ENT department is just one and a half weeks, according to a survey published in the Journal of Laryngology and Otology.

So GPs may dismiss sudden hearing loss as another form of deafness, known as conductive hearing loss which is usually caused by a blockage — such as a build-up of excess ear wax or fluid  from an ear infection. Unlike sensorineural hearing, it may clear spontaneously or can be treatable through medication or surgery.

In Michael Berkeley’s case, a cold virus had travelled to his inner ear, causing swelling, compressing and damaging the nerves. Michael’s problems began in August 2010, when he developed  a chesty cold. One morning he awoke at his farmhouse in Wales to find the hearing in his right ear had suddenly disappeared.

He says: ‘It was like being in a soundproofed room. It was terrifying. ‘I relied on this ear because as a child I’d suffered with a middle ear infection in my left ear, which had reduced my hearing by about 20 per cent. ‘Now I couldn’t hear a thing in my right ear and the hearing in my left ear was worse, too. ‘I began to panic — how on earth was I supposed to compose and listen to music if I couldn’t hear? I felt like a painter who was going blind.’ He went to his GP straight away but the problem was dismissed as a temporary after effect of his cold and Michael was prescribed drops to clear his ear. When these failed to work, he saw another GP in London ten days later — only again to be given drops and told it would soon clear up.

A simple way for a GP to establish whether someone has sensorineural hearing loss is to use a tuning fork. This is placed in the middle of the forehead. The patient is then asked in which ear the sound is louder — if hearing is normal, the sound will be heard equally between the two. Michael was offered no such test and  his hearing loss had a ‘devastating effect’, he recalls.‘I was trying to compose a piece for the Nash Ensemble, one of Britain’s finest chamber music groups, but it was so difficult. ‘And I remember being mortified sitting next to Sandra Howard (wife of ex-politician Michael) at a dinner and just nodding because I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.

‘I should have gone to see a specialist, but I’d been told by two doctors it would clear up.’ Six weeks after he first lost his hearing, Michael wrote an article about the battle to compose music with a blocked ear. This came to the attention of John Graham, a surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London, who contacted Michael to say he thought he’d been misdiagnosed — the problem was nerve damage in his inner ear. Michael then underwent an audiogram examination to test his ability to hear different tones and loudness — the results confirmed the diagnosis. Michael was prescribed steroids to try and reduce the swelling pressing on the nerves, but  was told it was likely the nerves had been damaged for too long to respond. ‘If there is nerve damage, it’s likely to happen within the first two weeks or less of having a cold,’ explains Mr Graham. ‘That’s why doctors need to react quickly. By the time I saw Michael, he’d suffered from the problem for two months.’ The drugs made no difference and Michael had no choice but to accept he’d need a hearing aid. ‘I was so angry. Why hadn’t the GPs I’d seen known that I might need steroid treatment? ‘Doctors have a lot to contend with, but how could they not consider something as routine as this when so many people suffer from colds? ‘I was in a black despair. I remember saying to my wife, Deborah, I’ll never be able to listen to music again or hear the beauty of a full chord in an orchestra.’ Finding a hearing aid to suit his needs proved difficult, as devices are calibrated for speech rather than music. He now has one more suited to musical frequencies, but it took several months until he got used to using it. Astonishingly, throughout his trauma, Michael managed to compose. ‘I had no idea what my work would sound like, nor could I be any help to the conductor or musicians. What I heard when they played was still distorted. ‘Or I’d miss some of the finer sounds. That’s why I left the Albert Hall so abruptly. ‘I just couldn’t bear listening to music and hearing it in a way that didn’t truly represent what was being played. It was awful.’ However, his situation took a turn for the better at the beginning of 2012. Listening to a CD, Michael realised his hearing suddenly had more depth. Sounds were finer and clearer.

A consultation with David McAlpine, professor of auditory neuroscience at University College London, revealed Michael’s brain had gradually reprogrammed itself, based on the memories of music it already had stored and the adjustments it had to make to what it now heard. Michael still needs to keep the volume high when listening to the radio or television. If Deborah, a literary agent, has her back to him, he can’t hear what she says and he frequently misses the telephone or doorbell. He also finds it difficult in crowded company. However, his work remains in demand and Michael is currently composing a piece to mark the installation of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. ‘I try to make a virtue out of my loss by being punctilious about every single note. ‘If this happens to you, don’t be dismissed by a GP, but make sure you get referred to specialist care immediately. ‘You need to see one as an emergency appointment. ‘Even if I can no longer enjoy music the way I did, at least by warning others I can ensure no one else ever suffers such a catastrophic loss.’

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit

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