Is There a Genetic Link between Nearsightedness and Hearing Loss?
According to a recently published study led by St. George’s, University of London and the Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Florida, there may be a genetic link between myopia (or nearsightedness) and hearing loss. The study found that a mutation in the SLITRK6 gene leads to a syndrome that counts both nearsightedness and hearing loss among its symptoms.
The study, published in the online Journal of Clinical Investigation, involved the genetic analysis of two families – an old-order Amish family and a Turkish family – that had high incidences of severe myopia and sensorineural deafness. It was discovered that in both families, members who suffered from both hearing loss and nearsightedness had mutated SLITRK6 genes.
The researchers were able to confirm their findings through mutating the SLITRK6 genes in mice. These mice experienced the same symptoms.
Implications for the Future
At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, audiologist Ellen Mosher stays abreast of the latest developments in hearing loss research with an eye toward the future. While studies such as that involving the SLITRK6 gene mutation may not lead to immediate changes in the treatment of hearing loss, they do deepen our understanding of how hearing works and how it is influenced by our genetic makeup. The ability to connect both hearing loss and myopia to a single genetic mutation, absent other eye or ear conditions, represents a breakthrough that could have profound long-term effects on both audiology and vision restoration.
“We hope that identifying a genetic cause of these common sensory problems and a causative link between myopia and hearing loss will lead to a better understanding of the mechanism of these disorders and eventually how to better treat them,” stated Dr. Mustafa Tekin, co-lead author of the study.
Genetic research has evolved tremendously over the past two decades. Advances have been made in nearly every field of medicine, although it is still unknown exactly how beneficial this ongoing genetic research will eventually be. In terms of hearing loss, our hope is that one day deafness will be a rarity among humans and entirely treatable.
In the meanwhile, hearing aid technology continues to progress, and our collective understanding of the human ear is continually being refined and expanded. For patients of Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, we can guarantee that we will continue to be at the forefront of hearing technology.
For further information about hearing loss or to schedule your comprehensive hearing test with audiologist Ellen Mosher, please contact Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, serving communities throughout the Bay Area, today.
Life in the City Can Be Tough on the Ears
Life in a large city can be exciting, with its fast pace and hustle and bustle. Unfortunately, the very things that make city living so appealing to many can also make it dangerous for people’s ears. Noise exposure is the second most common cause of hearing loss – and if there’s one thing that a large metropolitan area has in abundance, it’s noise.
At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, we are proximate to two of California’s largest cities, San Jose and San Francisco. San Jose is the heart of Silicon Valley and is therefore one of the nation’s true centers of industry. San Francisco is one of the most unique cities in the world, with its dense, diverse population being among the most active and vibrant of any city. Noise in these two cities is unavoidable.
There are measures people in metropolitan areas can take to protect their hearing. Most important of all, those who are exposed consistently to loud noise should be proactive in having their hearing tested routinely so that hearing loss can be diagnosed and treated in its earliest possible stages. If you have not had your hearing tested recently, especially if you are frequently exposed to loud noise, we urge you to schedule your hearing test at Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Center today.
New York, New York, It’s a Heck of a…NOISY Town
In 2012, Rick Neitzel of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor published the results of a study he headed in which 4,585 residents of New York were surveyed about how frequently they were exposed to loud noise and for how long. The study used the recommended 70 dBA annual exposure limit as its baseline. According to the study, 90 percent of New Yorkers who regularly used the subway and other forms of city transit exceeded this limit, while nearly as many non-transit users (87 percent) also exceeded the limit.
Neitzel wrote, “Our results suggest that the vast majority of urban mass transit riders may be at risk of permanent, irreversible noise-induced hearing loss and that, for many individuals, this risk is driven primarily by exposures other than occupational noise.”
Northern California Urban Mass Transit Riders Need to Be Cautious
New York may represent the pinnacle of urban noise exposure, but San Francisco, San Jose, and surrounding metropolitan areas can be dangerously noisy, as well. In particular, the hundreds of thousands of Northern Californians that rely on mass transit for transportation must be careful. The tendency of people to drown out loud noise with even louder music is highly hazardous to hearing. It is far better to wear custom earplugs or ear muffs to keep noise out and protect your ears from the effects of urban noise.
If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your hearing in urban environments, or you wish to schedule your hearing test at our practice serving San Jose, San Francisco, and other Bay Area communities, we encourage you to call, visit, or email Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center today.
What to Expect: Your First Hearing Test
According to the Better Hearing Institute, nearly 35 million people in the United States are aware that they have suffered some degree of hearing loss, yet approximately half of them have never had their hearing professionally tested. This is an alarming number, especially when one considers that hearing loss is most easily treated when diagnosed in its earliest stages. In fact, it may be possible to dramatically slow or even halt the decline in one’s hearing – and, thanks to modern hearing aid technology, restore much of the hearing that was lost.
Part of the reason that many people don’t schedule professional hearing tests is a fear of the unknown. What will the hearing test involve? What if I am diagnosed with hearing loss? Will I have to wear a hearing aid for the rest of my life? Will I be judged for not seeking professional help before now?
At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose and other Bay Area communities, we strive to demystify hearing loss, hearing technology, and the process of testing hearing. Having your hearing checked is not substantially different from any other routine exam, and it is equally important. The quality of your experience will depend largely on the skill, personality, and background of the audiologist you visit for your first hearing test. Audiologist Ellen Mosher combines experience, technology, and a compassionate, kind manner to make every visit to her practice comfortable, efficient, and productive.
If you have never had your hearing professionally tested, or if you haven’t had a comprehensive hearing test in the past year or so, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Ellen Mosher and her team of caring professionals today.
Your Hearing Test
Modern hearing loss solutions can be customized to the exact and unique needs of the individual. Ellen Mosher has an uncanny ability to find the right solution for each individual patient; however, she can only do so through a detailed consultation and comprehensive hearing test. After speaking with you to assess your medical history, your daily routine, and the situations that generally affect your ability to hear clearly, she will administer a series of diagnostic audiometric tests, which will measure your ability to hear speech and various tones, from low to high, at certain decibels. Depending on your case, your comprehensive hearing test could include:
- Pure tone air conduction testing – Through headphones, a range of tones at frequencies ranging from low to high will be administered to each hear to assess which frequencies you have difficulty hearing.
- Bone conduction testing – A small vibrating instrument is placed on the bone behind the ear, which sends sound directly to the inner ear, bypassing the middle ear. As with the pure tone air conduction test, you will signify which sounds you can hear.
- Speech reception threshold testing – You will listen to a list of familiar two-syllable words at various levels to determine the lowest level at which you can distinguish at least half of the words.
- Word recognition testing – This test determines your ability to comprehend speech clearly through your recital of 50 single-syllable words per ear at a volume you find comfortable.
- Loudness discover level testing – During this test, you will be exposed to speech and other sounds across the frequency spectrum at higher volumes to determine the sensitivity of your ears to noise.
Once the testing has been completed, Ellen Mosher will compile your results into a personal hearing profile called an audiogram. Using this data and other information you provide during the consultation, she will recommend the hearing loss solution that is best suited to your case, if you are in need of such a solution.
We encourage you to come in for a hearing exam today. At every stage of your experience at Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose and other Bay Area communities, we will cater to your comfort, safety, and precise needs.
Inspirational Stories: Well-known People with Hearing Loss
Chances are that you are aware of the fact that famous composer Ludwig Van Beethoven was almost completely deaf in the later years of his life. He actually began losing his hearing as a young man, first experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus at the age of 26. During the last decade of his life, he relied on a conversation book – in which visitors would write down whatever they had to say to Beethoven – to communicate.
Yet, Beethoven never stopped composing, and actually composed what many feel was his greatest work – if not the greatest musical work ever composed – when he was nearly completely deaf. At the initial performance of the legendary Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Beethoven had to be turned around in order to see the crowd’s ecstatic reactions because he could not hear it. Yet, the symphony itself stands as a grand testament to what people with hearing impairment can accomplish.
At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose and surrounding communities, we offer a full range of hearing aids and other technologically advanced solutions to hearing loss that were, of course, unavailable at the time of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Nevertheless, we like to remind those who live with hearing impairment that, by learning to cope with hearing loss as Beethoven did, they can not only survive, but thrive.
Did You Know…?
Okay, so Beethoven’s struggle with hearing loss is fairly widely known, as are the struggles of many modern musicians such as Pete Townshend, Brian Wilson, and Barbra Streisand. But did you know that the following famous people also had hearing problems?
- Bill Clinton – President Clinton had suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noise from the time he was young and playing saxophone in bands. As the first American President who grew up attending rock concerts, his hearing damage eventually progressed to the point that, in 1997, he was fitted with state-of-the-art hearing aids in both ears.
- Thomas Edison – Many people don’t realize that the inventor of the phonograph actually suffered from hearing loss due to constant ear infections following a case of scarlet fever he endured as a child.
- Rob Lowe – Lowe, the actor famous for his roles in such films as The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire, has been completely deaf in his right ear for nearly his entire life due to a virus he suffered as an infant.
- Francisco Goya – One of the great masters of painting, Goya was struck by a serious illness in 1792 that left him deaf. The majority of his most famous and imaginative works were painted after he became deaf.
Hearing impairment does not have to result in a compromised standard of living, as many great people with hearing loss have demonstrated. If you are showing symptoms of hearing loss, or if you would like to schedule a comprehensive hearing test, we encourage you to call, visit, or email our audiology practice in Los Gatos, serving San Jose and surrounding communities, today.
Recommended Read: ‘Song without Words – Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life’
One of the primary reasons people who suffer from hearing loss don’t seek treatment is that they don’t realize that they suffer from hearing loss. The symptoms of even moderate-to-severe hearing loss can be difficult to recognize, especially if that hearing loss began in one’s childhood. After all, if you have been hearing impaired for most of your life – but you can still hear some sounds – how do you measure your hearing against anyone else’s unless you have it tested?
Indeed, commercial lawyer Gerald Shea didn’t realize that he was severely deaf until he underwent a physical exam in his mid-thirties. His hearing loss occurred as a result of contracting scarlet fever when he was only six years old. As he developed through adolescence into adulthood, he had no idea that he heard differently from anybody else.
In his recently published, critically lauded memoir, Song without Words – Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life, Shea describes his journey as a hearing impaired individual, through Columbia Law School to his partnership at a prominent Manhattan law firm. Aside from being beautifully written, the book provides an inspiring glimpse into how a severely deaf individual was able to process speech and other sounds he heard as “lyricals”: a linguistic bridge he developed between the sometimes nonsensical words he heard and the English language he intellectually understood. For example, he learned as a youngster to translate what he heard as “Arthur Dobbs super sense” to “are the top 2 percent,” based on the context of the statement (he was being informed that he and his classmates were among the top 2 percent of all students in the country for having been accepted at his private school).
Song without Words also reinforces a point that audiologist Ellen Mosher has been making her entire professional career: people should undergo regular hearing tests, regardless of whether they believe they suffer from hearing loss. When caught in its earliest stages, hearing loss can be effectively dealt with, and a person does not have to endure any substantial decline in his or her quality of life.
Gerald Shea finally got a hearing aid after his hearing loss was diagnosed. While he still often had to rely on his “lyricals” to make sense of speech, his ability to hear was improved. At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid, serving all of Santa Clara County and the South Bay Area, we encourage you and your loved ones to read and draw inspiration from Song without Words – and to schedule your hearing test immediately.
360 Million People Worldwide Suffer from Hearing Loss
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 360 million people around the world suffer from some degree of hearing loss. By comparison, the total population of the United States is approximately 314 million people.
Of particular concern to us here at Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose, San Francisco, and surrounding communities, is the fact that the global production of hearing aids is currently insufficient to meet the demand. Although residents of the United States have access to the most advanced hearing aid technology available, millions of people in less developed nations cannot obtain even rudimentary hearing aids.
According to Dr. Shelly Chadha, of the WHO’s Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, “Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10 percent of global need. In developing countries, fewer than one out of 40 people who need a hearing aid have one.” The WHO reports that the regions where hearing loss is most prevalent are South Asia, Asia Pacific, and sub-Saharan Africa. Future hearing loss rates in these regions could be reduced with increased vaccination against infectious diseases such as rubella, meningitis, and measles.
Residents of Los Gatos, San Jose, San Francisco, and the Greater Bay Area are fortunate not to have to worry about a shortage of hearing aids. However, the majority of American adults who could benefit from hearing aids continue not wear them. Given the fact that so many people in developing countries have no choice as to whether they can wear hearing aids, this is particularly distressing.
If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the signs of hearing loss, we encourage you to schedule a hearing test at Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center today. The sooner you seek treatment for your hearing loss, the more likely you will be able to preserve the hearing ability you still have.
New Study Suggests Link between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Problems in Older People
At Los Gatos Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, we have always endorsed a proactive approach to protecting one’s precious hearing. People of all ages should undergo routine hearing tests, as advised by a professional audiologist such as Ellen Mosher. Particularly as people age, they should take whatever measures they can to ensure the preservation of their hearing, and seek treatments for hearing loss as soon as they exhibit symptoms.
Now it turns out that older adults have even greater reason to visit our Los Gatos audiology center, serving San Jose and other Bay Area communities, for regular hearing exams. According to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine on January 21, 2013, there is a link between hearing loss and cognitive problems in older adults.
Led by Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., the study followed 1,984 adults between the ages of 75 and 84 for a six-year period. During that time, study participants with hearing loss exhibited a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in their cognitive abilities than those participants without appreciable hearing loss. Ultimately, the study showed that members of the hearing impaired group were at a 24 percent increased risk of cognitive decline.
According to Lin, “Our findings show how important it is for physicians to discuss hearing with their patients and be proactive in addressing hearing declines.”
Lin further speculates that the energy required of an older hearing-impaired individual to decode what he or she hears could be placing too great a burden on the brain, hastening cognitive decline. Particularly troubling is the study’s finding that, among those with hearing loss aged 70 or older, only about 15 percent actually wear hearing aids.
Whatever your age, it is essential that you make the preservation of your hearing a priority. If you or a loved one is beginning to demonstrate signs of hearing loss, we urge you to schedule an appointment at our Los Gatos hearing loss treatment center, serving San Jose and the rest of the Bay Area, as soon as possible. Likewise, if you haven’t had a hearing test recently – or perhaps in your adult life – please visit our audiology practice today.
Could Drugs One Day Treat Hearing Loss?
Imagine a future in which a drug could be used to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. While the very idea may seem too good to ever be true, pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Novartis are currently researching the possibility that such medications could be created. The problem to date is that there has been no safe or ethical way to test such drugs on human beings.
At Los Gatos Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, serving Santa Clara County and beyond, we are constantly striving to stay abreast of the latest developments in hearing loss prevention and technologies to treat hearing loss. Recently, our attention was caught by a report published by Colleen Le Prell of the University of Florida. Le Prell led a group of researchers in developing a test designed to induce temporary, reversible hearing loss in study participants. This test involves exposing participants to rock or pop music using headphones at 93 to 102 decibels for four hours. The primary purpose of developing such a test – that will not permanently damage the hearing of participants – is to accelerate FDA trials of hearing loss drugs.
“There’s a real need for drug solutions to hearing loss,” Le Prell stated, concluding that such a drug would be of particular value in professions – military and police, for instance – in which the ability to hear is necessary, but the threat of hearing damage due to potentially loud noises is ever-present.
A dietary supplement called Soundbites has shown promise in animal tests, but has yet to be tested on humans. Likewise, an oral capsule called SPI-1005 is awaiting human testing. Both products will be the subjects of clinical trials using Le Prell’s new test and supervised by the FDA.
Will this lead to a breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of hearing loss? At our Los Gatos hearing aid center, serving Santa Clara County and outlying communities, we are keeping our finger on the pulse of advances in audiology, with great hope and optimism for the future.
Hearing Loss among Veterans of the U.S. Military
Every day, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces put their lives and their health at risk to serve their country. At Los Gatos Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose, San Francisco, and other nearby communities, we would like to express our gratitude to the members of our nation’s military for the sacrifices they make. At the same time, we would like to raise public awareness of one such sacrifice in particular.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number-one service-related disability among veterans is hearing impairment. Indeed, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 60 percent of deployed service men and women suffer from some form of noise-induced hearing problem, including hearing loss and tinnitus.
Of course, exposure to loud noise is virtually impossible to avoid in the military. In recognition of this, the Department of Defense established the Hearing Center of Excellence in 2009 with the stated mission of focusing on the “prevention, mitigation, treatment and rehabilitation of hearing loss and auditory injury” among military personnel. This is in addition to the mandatory Hearing Conservation Programs (HCPs) that each of the military branches have had in place since 1978.
Still, the Department of Defense is aware of the need for further improvements in hearing protection and restoration in the military. This is why the Hearing Center of Excellence has joined forces with Stanford School of Medicine to research ways to restore hearing. At present, their joint focus is research into the injection of stem cells into the inner ear to regenerate hair cells that were destroyed by loud explosions and other noises.
In the meanwhile, if you or someone you love currently is or at one time was enlisted in the military, it is important that you have your hearing tested routinely, even if you are unaware of any damage to your hearing. Early detection of hearing problems is essential to preventing further, more severe hearing loss. Likewise, at Los Gatos Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, we can recommend ways for military personnel to protect their hearing and to recognize signs of hearing loss.
If you would like to schedule a comprehensive hearing test, or if you have any questions about your hearing, please contact Los Gatos Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, serving San Jose, San Francisco, and surrounding Bay Area communities, today.
Only One out of Five People Who Could Benefit from Hearing Aids Use Them
It is not unusual for a person experiencing symptoms of hearing loss to feel alone. In truth, hearing loss is a common condition that affects millions of Americans, with thousands of new cases being reported each month. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) compiles and routinely publishes data on hearing loss, and you might find some of the numbers they have reported somewhat surprising.
One statistic that stands out is that only 20 percent of the people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wear one. At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid, serving San Francisco and Santa Clara County, many of our patients don’t realize what a profound effect a custom-fitted hearing aid can have on their quality of life until they experience for themselves how truly remarkable modern hearing aid technology is. Perhaps someone you love is among the 80 percent who could benefit from a hearing aid. While it can be difficult to talk to a loved one with hearing loss, the results may prove well worth the effort.
Of course, the statistics published by the NIDCD are based on reported cases of hearing loss. The organization approximates that, among American adults, 17 percent – or 36 million – have reported some degree of hearing loss. If 80 percent of these adults do not wear hearing aids, then roughly 29 million people who have reported hearing impairment are not taking advantage of modern hearing aid technology in their daily lives. While many of these people may not yet require the assistance of a hearing aid, many others would benefit greatly. Certainly, we can conclude that there are millions of people out there who should undergo professional hearing tests and have not done so.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the symptoms of hearing loss until they begin to interfere with their everyday function, while others simply don’t know where to turn for answers. Awareness of audiology and of the prevalence of hearing loss in our society will go a long way toward improving the lives of millions.
If you are reading this blog entry right now, we at Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid encourage you to spread the word: get your hearing tested today!