Tiny hearing hair cells in the ear have been regenerated to reverse deafness for the first time

A question I am regularly asked when patients are recommended hearing aids as treatment for hearing loss is, ‘Can there not be anything done medically? So I thought about those patients when I read this recent research study.

An injection of a drug led to the creation of new hair cells in tests on mice, they have been grown using a similar principle to stem cells.  The hair cells are not ‘hairs’ as such but are the nerve terminals for the eight nerve pathway. Normal hearing however was not restored, rather the mice went from hearing nothing to detecting loud sounds such as a slamming door or traffic noise. Experts are “tremendously excited” however warned treating humans was still a distant prospect, at least a decade.  To hear anything, sound pressure or sound waves have to be converted into electrical signals which the brain then interprets as sound. This happens in the inner ear where vibrations from the basilar membrane activate tiny hairs (nerve terminals), the movement creates an electrical signal which is transmitted along the auditory nerve to the brain.  Most hearing problems are as a result of acquired damage to these hairs, via noise, infection or ototoxic drugs.

When I was studying at the Ear Institute there was similar work being done there. One of the questions I put forward at the time was ‘How will you correctly innervate the hair cells to the appropriate auditory nerves?’ As the main problem lies in the fact that the entire auditory system is frequency specific / frequency coded, therefore re-innervating them correctly to the appropriate auditory nerves maybe difficult. Incorrect wiring will lead to an unfamiliar or incorrect transmission of sound frequency and intensity. Therefore simply regrowing these cells may not restore hearing or at least not in a way that would be perceived as normal.

If you can not wait another decade for stem cell treatment, and would like to improve your hearing now contact us at chalfont hearing on 01494 765144 or visit the rest of the website for treatment options chalfonthearing.co.uk

Is your hearing aid fitted correctly? Are you hearing properly? Can we help?

In the UK there is no standardised way of fitting hearing aids, there are also various different qualifications that practictioner’s may possess in order to fit hearing aids. The outcome and fitting success can vary wildly depending on where you go. Some people may have had negative experiences with private hearing aids, some may have had negative experiences with the NHS. The main factor in the successful fitting of a hearing aid is the audiologist or hearing aid dispenser that is fitting the hearing aid. A hearing aid is only as good as the audiologist fitting it. When choosing a hearing aid it is important not to choose an aid based on price but on the competency of the audiologist.  If the hearing is not fitted using some form of verification you may not achieve optimum hearing levels. Verification typically refers to the process of real ear measurement, insitu audiometry and speech mapping. If you hearing aids have not been fitted using this method they may not be working to their optimum. Under amplification may lead to a lack of clarity and over amplification may lead to feedback, noise, distortion and even further damage to your hearing.

To find out if your hearing aid is performing correctly contact us via email chalfonthearingcentre@live.co.uk or call 01494 765144.

Widex Zen Therapy - The Benefits & Outcomes

In may 2013, 50 dispensers and audiologists took part in the UKs first Widex Zen Therapy Educational workshop for tinnitus. Chalfont Hearing Centre were one of those select hearing professionals. The material that day was very useful and has furthered significant development of our tinnitus management program. The course gave an overview of how Zen and Widex hearing aids could be utilised in the treatment, reduction and management of tinnitus (ringing and buzzing sounds in the ears). The event was attended by a very prominent figure in audiology from the US Dr Robert Sweetow who gave some really useful lectures and advice on tinintus management.

Widex Zen Therapy is an integrated package for tinnitus management. It is incorporated throughout the widex dream range and and can provide customised fractal tones, noise or both for patients who struggle with tinnitus. We have now utilised this treatment in the rehabilitation of a number of patients. The outcomes have been useful for a majority of patients, however proved less useful for 1 or 2. The main reasons the treatment was reported successful by patients was that it provided distraction, relief and reduced focus of the tinnitus. We feel that as part of a tailored tinnitus management program WZT can provide certain patients with relief from their tinnitus symptoms. But that in isolation the benefits will be less effective.

To find out more about how Widex Zen Therapy and our tailored tinnitus management program could improve your tinnitus symptoms call 01494 765144.

Scientists 'prove theory of selective hearing'

A recent study has found that it is possible for the brain to cancel out some sounds, and focus on others when directed to. This is a particularly important consideration in hearing aid wearers, who need to relearn to listen with an acquired hearing loss.  Hearing aids only provide an aid to hearing, focused listening and hearing tactics are just as important in achieving improved hearing.

I am constantly trying to reinforce to my patients that listening is just as important as hearing and that while I control their hearing they control their listening. Many patients are overwhelmed by sound when they are first fitted with a hearing aids, resulting on them being distracted by noise rather than listening to speech. However, when the patient finishes their acclimatisation period and is wearing the hearing aid all of the time, they will begin to become selective again. However, this is not a passive activity for the hearing impaired it is a much more demanding activity, that will take time to improve. Continued dialogue with your Audiologist is important to make the best progress.

The link below is to a video which explains the details of the hearing study in more depth

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18519010

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