Hearing loss causes a severe impact to the lives of many adults and children who are diagnosed every year. But with continued scientific research, there are a range of new developments, technologies and therapies to help make life a little easier for those who have hearing problems.
Recently, scientists in Germany and England identified a newly-discovered type of DNA mutation in a type of MicroRNA called miR-96. This mutation has been identified as a possible cause of early hearing problems in children in which the tiny hairs on the cochlea of the ear, responsible for picking up sound, do not develop properly. This discovery opens the pathway for possible future therapies targeting hearing loss at a molecular level.
Hybrid Cochlear Implants
Hybrid cochlear implants are increasingly being recognised as a treatment option for individuals who suffer only partial hearing loss and may not qualify for traditional cochlear implants and hearing aids. Hybrid implants stimulate nerve endings in the same way as traditional implants, but allows for greater flexibility with the range of frequencies it can aid individuals to hear.
For people who suffer with tinnitus, or constant ringing in the ears, there may be help on the way. While there is still no known cure for tinnitus, a research team at the University of Texas at Dallas and wireless neurostimulation technology company MicroTransponder Inc. are working on methods to try and reverse tinnitus by resetting the brain’s auditory system. By electrically stimulating the vagus nerve (a long nerve running from the head to the abdomen) scientists believe that brain cells may be induced to tune to frequencies other than the tinnitus one. The research has only been conducted on rats, but offers the possibility of human treatment for tinnitus and hearing loss in the future.
Avoiding Infections while Pregnant
A new study in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery has found that if a woman contracts a certain type of cirus, cytomegalovirus (or CMV) while she is pregnant, she has about a 33 per cent chance of passing the virus along to her baby. The baby then in turn has a much higher risk of developing complications due to the virus, especially hearing loss. Children The virus is quite common, and the risk of spread can be easily prevented, so it’s another reason to always wash your hands thoroughly and regularly!
Plain old prevention
As scientists and doctors are learning more and more about the causes and treatments of preventable hearing loss, more emphasis is being placed on education programs to help people learn the risks of things like loud concerts and high volumes on mp3 players and iPods.
Of course, for non-preventable hearing loss, there are already a number of effective hearing aids on the market. One option is a bone induction implant, which is effective in both adults and children. Single sided deafness sufferers can also benefit from such technology. It’s important to speak with your doctor to determine the best treatment option for you.