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Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids; What Does This Mean for Audiology?

As technology and medical research continue to advance, more facets of your healthcare are becoming increasingly over the counter, whether that be medication, devices, or just medical advice. Treatment for hearing loss is no exception, with over the counter hearing aids becoming an imminent reality, invoking worry in many audiologists across the country. As hearing aids become more accessible over the counter, audiologists fear the impact on their profession and practice. This disruptive innovation is poised to achieve a new market foothold, becoming a more attractive option to new consumers who are looking for the most convenient and simple transition into hearing aids, taking business from traditional hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists who often bundle devices into their services. Though they seem convenient, the introduction of OTC hearing aids shows that despite intentions to increase accessibility and reduce costs, patients are not receiving the treatment they desperately need in exchange for ease.

Don’t Bypass Your Doctors Appointment Just Yet

According to the OTC Hearing Aid Act, the intention was to increase accessibility and affordability of devices, though OTC hearing aids have done little to achieve those goals. In fact, they hinder the ability of patients to get the information and proper assessments that they should have before finding the most effective hearing aid. OTC Hearing Aids utilize a business model designed to bypass diagnostic evaluations, hearing needs assessments, and audiologists all together in favor of self-identifying a device. Not only does this keep patients out of their doctor’s office, but also from receiving the medical advice they may need, ignoring the advocation by organizations such as the American Academy of Audiology for required medical evaluations for OTC hearing aids. Moreover, “receiving an OTC device is expected to be based on self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, not measured hearing capability that directly aligns with the definition provided by ASHA.”
 
As hearing loss can differ greatly from patient to patient, it’s critical that patients do not bypass professional medical advice. Herein lies the fear of audiologists, as numerous unofficial polls conducted via social media and trade publications have documented the anxiety had by medical professionals as OTC devices are positioned to impact not only their practice but their profession as a whole.

Changing Public Perception

To combat this imminent and disruptive technology, Audiologists must aim to change public perception about the importance of their profession and medical advice regarding hearing loss. ”The efforts of the profession should be focused not on a device, but rather on educating the public such that they recognize audiologists’ value and demand access to it.” says Dr. Sarah Sydlowski, Audiology Director of the Otolaryngology department at Cleveland Clinic, ”Take every opportunity to reinforce the value audiologists provide. Emphasize the importance of a hearing evaluation before deciding to use any hearing device. Help the public understand that an inappropriate hearing device can be as detrimental as no hearing device.” With proper advocation, audiologists can continue to give the critical information required for patients with hearing loss, ensuring that patients do not give up their doctors for convenience.

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It Is Time To Get That Annual Hearing Evaluation

We schedule yearly physical exams and dental exams, so why not schedule annual hearing testing? Hearing loss is gradual, and it affects not only your ability to hear but your physical and mental health too. Yearly hearing evaluations should be a part of your regular healthcare routine. If you are putting off a hearing evaluation, please consider some great reasons why you should schedule that test today!

Hearing Loss Is A Gradual Process

Hearing loss typically occurs at a slow pace over the course of many years. Because of this gradual process, it is difficult to detect when your hearing is not as good as it used to be. People with hearing loss typically wait 7 to 10 years before they address the hearing loss. An annual hearing evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional will detect any hearing loss so you can act before the problem exacerbates. You should monitor your hearing as well to identify hearing loss in your daily life. Indications include the following:

  • Trouble hearing phone
  • Difficulty hearing conversations
  • Ask people to repeat themselves
  • Sounds and voices seem muffled
  • Difficulty pinpointing the direction of a sound

Early Detection Is Critical

Putting off a hearing test for 7 to 10 years is not a good idea. An annual hearing evaluation will allow you the chance to address your hearing loss early before the problem worsens. It is essential to check your hearing annually after age 55, even if you experience no problems because this is the time most people begin to experience age-related hearing loss.

Dementia And Depression

Inquiry from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) states that depression is higher among U.S. adults with hearing loss than those without a hearing loss. Although the cause of this relationship is unknown, acting now can reduce your chances of experiencing mental health symptoms that often accompany hearing loss.

Hearing Loss And Happiness

People of all ages experience hearing loss, and the chances that you will experience change in your hearing over time are high. Here are a few statistics to consider:

  • 5% of American children have permanent hearing damage from exposure to loud noise.
  • 14% of American adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss.
  • 30-40% of American adults over the age of 65 have hearing loss.
  • 50% of American adults over the age of 75 have some hearing loss.

It is essential to take hearing loss seriously. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Heart disease, dementia, sleep apnea, and brain shrinkage all have a connection to hearing loss.

Schedule A Hearing Evaluation Today

Hearing loss will interfere with your life much quicker than you might realize. You may find yourself having trouble at work, not hearing your loved ones, or even enjoying the sounds of nature. Do something for your hearing today. Schedule an annual hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional and protect your hearing before it is too late!

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The Surprising Do’s and Don'ts of Earwax Removal

removing earwax

Cleaning your ears can be an often uncomfortable experience and understandably worrying when wondering if you are removing earwax in a safe and effective way when using at-home remedies. To make matters worse, asking your doctor or healthcare provider about earwax removal is often perceived as an unpleasant or embarrassing subject, but is much more common than one might think. About 44,000 ears are syringed by health care providers to remove ear wax annually, proving that rules regarding the do’s and don’ts of ear wax removal are not widely known.

The Do’s

  1. It’s important to first understand that earwax is completely healthy and an important defense mechanism for your ear’s overall health. Earwax, also known as Cerumen, shields the ear from bacteria, microorganisms, and foreign particles, protecting you from ear damage and infections. With over 22 million visits to physicians each year in the United States for ear infections, keeping earwax levels healthy is important, but how much is too much?
  2. Understanding the symptoms of excessive earwax buildup is the second step to making sure your ear health is up to code. Impacted earwax is when earwax has built up in the ear canal to an extensive degree, showing symptoms that something isn’t quite correct. Ringing in the ears known as Tinnitus, impaired hearing, ear fullness, an unpleasant odor or discharge, and changes to hearing aid effectiveness or functionality are all signs that it’s time for a cleaning.
  3. Seek out the advice or help from a medical professional if you notice hearing impairment, ringing, or if infections have occurred, as they may be signs of an underlying condition. It is also important to seek out medical advice before attempting any at-home remedies for earwax removal, as some medical conditions can make those remedies unsafe.

The Don’ts

  1. Amazingly, our ears are designed to clean themselves, as old earwax is moved outside of the ear canal by jaw movements such as chewing or talking and flakes off, but sometimes this earwax requires some outside assistance being removed. With that in mind, it’s important to only clean your ears when necessary, as overcleaning can lead to irritation, infection, or even more wax buildup in the ear canal, making wax removal counterproductive.
  2. If you must clean your ears at home, avoid using cotton swabs or sharp objects such as pins or paper clips to clean or scratch your ears. These objects are far too small and can reach fragile parts of your ear canal, cutting or even puncturing your eardrum. Damaged or ruptured eardrums can lead to a host of complications, including hearing impairment, middle ear infections, and cholesteatoma, a formed cyst that can damage bones in your middle ear.
  3. Do not forget to clean hearings aids properly according to your health care providers instructions. Dirty or ill-fitting hearing aids can aid in the creation of earwax by introducing outside bacteria into the ear canal in which earwax is created as a defense mechanism to protect against.
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Protecting Children From Hearing Loss

Protect Your Child's Hearing

Although we often think of hearing loss as a plight of the elderly, children are also susceptible to the condition. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 32 million children around the globe suffer from some form of hearing loss – a staggering number.
That being said, the WHO also estimates that about 60% of these children have hearing loss that could have been prevented. While some children are born without the ability to hear and others have unavoidable conditions that lead to hearing loss, for that 60% of children who can avoid hearing loss, preventative interventions by parents and caregivers are critical.
Parents and caregivers want the best for their children, so the thought that your child could develop preventable hearing loss is a scary one, indeed. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help your child maintain good hearing health throughout their life. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stress the importance of hearing health. Many children – and adults for that matter – don’t realize how important their hearing actually is nor do they recognize the dangerous situations we often put our hearing in when we expose ourselves to loud noises. It’s easy to overlook the importance of something that we take for granted, so teaching children to respect the value of their own hearing can help them start to take personal responsibility for their own hearing health.
  • Set a maximum volume on electronic devices. Many modern smartphones and computers have parental control settings that can limit the maximum volume of music or videos that children can listen to. This can be a good way to protect a child’s hearing, especially if they’re not old enough or mature enough to understand the importance of their own hearing abilities. For older children and teenagers who are more likely to see this action as a sign of parental interference in their independence, a conversation about the importance of these volume limits could be helpful.
  • Choose quality headphones. There are so many different headphones on sale today that it can be really difficult to choose a pair that is less likely to cause hearing damage. Although playing music too loudly on any set of headphones can hurt your ears, there are some headphone choices that are better than others in this regard. For the most part, earbuds are best avoided because they allow too much background noise to get to your ears, encouraging people to turn up the volume too much higher levels than they actually should. Over the ear and noise-canceling headphones can help alleviate some of that problem.
  • Use hearing protection. Especially if you take children to sporting events, concerts, or other noisy venues, you might want to consider investing in some hearing protection. Ear protection can include anything from custom molded earplugs to protective ear muffs, so it’s important to find a pair that works well for your children. It’s also worth considering the use of ear protection when a child practices playing an instrument indoors and at home as repeated exposure to loud instruments, including percussion and brass instruments, can have a negative impact on one’s hearing health.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot we can do to help protect a child from preventable hearing loss. Many of these steps are simple and don’t require a huge time or financial commitment but they could protect your child’s hearing, so they’re well worth the investment.

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Exploring Behavioral Disorders In Children With Hearing Loss

Children Behavioral Disorders

The loss of the ability to hear has a profound impact on a child’s language and behavioral development. Estimates suggest that children with a hearing problem are more prone to behavioral problems than their normal-hearing peers. The challenges of early childhood communication lead to maladaptive interaction with others resulting in behavioral disorders. Why are children with hearing problems more prone to behavioral issues and what are the solutions to the challenge?

High Rates Of Aggression

Hearing loss treatment for children is better than it has ever been before. Technological improvements along with institutional changes are giving these kids more options for their hearing loss. Despite these advancements, children with hearing loss exhibit more aggression than their peers with normal hearing. Deaf children, in general, have higher rates of aggression, noncompliance, and inattention. Depression and other mental health problems are also high in children with a hearing loss.

Current Research Into The Problem

Research suggests that problems with language and communication skills are at the root of behavioral issues. Control of language is essential for life management. Those children without this control show an increase in difficulty with impulse control, planning, and regulating behavior. In studies with deaf children who have practical communication skills, the results show improvement in organizing behavior, attention, and impulse control. Furthermore, deaf children who have deaf parents or those with cochlear implants who have developed their language skills show improvement on par with children with normal hearing.

Possible Causes

Most children who are deaf have parents with normal hearing. These children often present with language barriers early on because the healthy hearing parents are not skilled at visual communication making it difficult for the child to benefit from an accessible form of communication. Many deaf children have parents who report much stress in their daily lives and often make poor decisions.  Deaf children develop an understanding of social interaction later than other kids. Most deaf children now receive education in mainstream schools. However, studies indicate that deaf children may experience neglect by their peers which limits the opportunity for social interaction.

Getting Help

There is positive news to report. Studies indicate that intervention with these children can be useful. Programs can teach these children impulse control and social skills to improve social interaction and behavioral control. These interventions must be a part of the regular school curriculum for these children with language and communication skills being the primary focus. Academic programs where deaf and hearing children learn together are beneficial in promoting inclusion into mainstream educational programs. Interventions that support communication in the family are also critical to the child’s development and behavior.
If your child has a hearing loss and behavioral problems do not fret. Interventions can help. Your child can learn methods for controlling their behavioral impulses as well as improve their social interaction skills. If you are not sure if your child has a hearing loss, please schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional today or check out the Hearing Loss Association of America website for more information and possible assistance.

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Don’t Let Untreated Hearing Loss Steal Your Social Life

social isolation and hearing loss

“It’s important to make your social life and your friends and family – make that a priority.” Samantha Barks
Whether you have always maintained a bustling social life with a packed calendar and lots of time with friends and family or prefer a quieter and more relaxed social life with family and a few close friends, hearing loss can make an impact on your plans. It’s hard to deny how we communicate and stay engaged changes after diagnosis, even with hearing aids. Hearing loss can become a barrier to socializing… but only if we let it.
Social side effects of hearing loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 15% of Americans report some difficulty with hearing. While recent research points to several potential side effects of hearing loss from an increased risk of injuries to an increased risk of dementia, one may be subtle enough to go unnoticed by many until it’s too late. That is social isolation.
Experts believe that as hearing loss changes how we communicate and interact, it can affect our desire to socialize. Many report increased levels of anxiety or stress over social interactions. For some, difficulty communicating due to hearing loss may lead to a withdrawal from activities and the people they once enjoyed. Social isolation and even depression then become concerns.
Maintaining your social life
Social connections and healthy relationships play an important role in health and longevity. If you have a hearing impairment, be proactive about maintaining your social life using strategies like these:

  • Schedule a hearing evaluation. If you haven’t already the most important step you can take to supporting a healthy social life is getting a hearing evaluation. Whether you suspect you may be missing part of what’s going on around you or others have brought up their concern that you may have hearing loss, a hearing healthcare professional can diagnose and offer treatment options.
  • Talk to your hearing healthcare provider about hearing aids. Treating hearing loss is essential to keep communication strong and help you feel more confident in social situations. In fact, a survey by the National Council on Aging found that those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids were more likely to be socially isolated and report feelings of sadness than those who did wear hearing aids. Working closely with your hearing healthcare professional can help you find the best choice for you and your lifestyle and shorten the learning curve as you start using them. Enhanced programming capabilities and added features can make hearing in social environments easier and more natural than ever.
  • Be open and honest. Millions of Americans now have hearing loss. Chances are one or more people you know have hearing loss. If you’ve been diagnosed, be open and honest with family, friends and colleagues about your hearing loss. This can help to reduce any anxiety you feel, cue others into your need for more effective communication, and put everyone more at ease.
  • Adjust plans, but don’t cancel. While you may find yourself suggesting quieter restaurants or events that offer options for the hearing impaired, don’t cancel your plans. It can be easy to give into anxiety or fear of embarrassment, but it’s a slippery slope that can quickly lead to no plans or social interactions at all. Invest in your health and well-being by spending time with the people you care about.

Social isolation can be more harmful to our health than we realize. Don’t let hearing loss hurt your relationships and social life. Take steps like these to continue doing the things you love even with hearing loss.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a hearing evaluation, call our office today.

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Managing Expectations Of Patients With Tinnitus

managing expectations for tinnitus treatment

There is no cure for tinnitus. The typical treatment options for tinnitus address the emotional and cognitive effects associated with tinnitus but do not repair the underlying origins of tinnitus. A new research study finds that 83 percent of patients with tinnitus feel like their office visits with hearing healthcare professionals are ineffective. Patients with tinnitus have expectations for their care, and the new study looks at what healthcare professionals can do for them.

What Tinnitus Patients Expect

The research survey includes 230 patients seeking treatment to either eliminate tinnitus or decrease the loudness associated with tinnitus. 29% of the patients were expecting medication, 25% came with expectations for hearing aids, and 17% felt sound therapy would be the answer. A big surprise was that 37% went with no expectations of treatment of any type.

Hearing Healthcare Professionals Definition Of Success

Sixty-eight hearing healthcare professionals took part in the research survey and defined how they measure tinnitus treatment success. 77% believe a decrease in a person’s awareness of their tinnitus was a success. 63% saw improvement in thoughts and emotions as an accurate measurement. Finally, 63% feel that increasing public knowledge about tinnitus is the key to success.

Findings

The researchers note that only 60% of the healthcare professionals involved in the study took the time to use questionnaires or outcome assessments on their patients. Although the majority of patients receive the necessary information about tinnitus, they rarely receive any specialized counseling for the condition nor have their concerns about tinnitus addressed. Disturbingly, more than half of the patients do not feel that they receive an answer to their questions about the situation. 70% of the healthcare professionals in the survey do not think that specialized counseling for tinnitus is an essential part of treatment.
The universal agreement seems to be that most people with tinnitus want a quick fix for their problem. The difficulty is that there is no magic cure for tinnitus. There are however ways to lessen the symptoms of tinnitus and manage the disease more effectively. The researchers have faith that the time has come for healthcare providers to expand their services to include teaching patients about tinnitus management. They also encourage specialized counseling, hearing aids, and sound therapy for tinnitus patients.

Treatment For Tinnitus

If you receive a diagnosis of tinnitus, remember that treatment focuses on treating your symptoms. Possible remedies for tinnitus include:

  • Noise suppression. Relief may come by tuning out annoying Devices include hearing aids, white noise machines, and masking devices.
  • Yes, a drug can’t cure tinnitus, but a few may help to ease the symptoms. Effective drugs include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Coping and support. Coping with tinnitus is an integral part of treatment. Counseling, support groups, and patient education are useful coping tools.
  • Alternative medicine. Some alternative therapy is useful for tinnitus including acupuncture, hypnosis, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc supplements, and vitamin B.

Effective management of tinnitus depends upon providing patients with tools for the effective management of their condition and encouraging healthcare providers to educate them regarding tinnitus.

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Higher Medical Costs For Individuals With Untreated Hearing Loss

cost of untreated hearing loss

As we age, a decline in our health condition comes as a natural consequence of our bodies living longer. But some conditions seem to go hand in hand. And, with hearing loss, it’s no different. The risk of psychological and medical conditions such as dementia and depression heighten as a result of untreated hearing loss in older populations. This fact is especially concerning given the high rate of hearing loss that goes untreated.
To investigate this issue further, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health led a 10-year longitudinal study in conjunction with AARP, University of California San Francisco and OptumLabs. Two groups were studied: individuals with untreated hearing loss, and those without hearing loss. Over a two-year period, individuals with untreated hearing loss incurred 26 percent more in health care costs compared to those without hearing loss, a gap that expanded to 46 percent by 10 years.
Growing Aging Population
This statistic is concerning given expectations for the aging population to grow to nearly 76 million in the United States by 2060. Two-thirds of adults 70 years and older have significant hearing loss, many of whom go untreated.
To investigate further, researchers data mined anonymized healthcare patient data from OptumLabs Data Warehouse to identify what specific characteristics stood out between patients with untreated hearing loss and patients who did not experience hearing loss.
They found that in a 10 year period, patients with untreated hearing loss experienced 50 percent more hospital stays, a 44 percent higher rate of hospital readmission within one month, were 17% more likely of revisiting the emergency department, and had 52 more outpatient visits on a whole than those without hearing loss. Individuals with treated hearing loss were not included in the study.
Links Between Medical Costs And Hearing Loss
Interestingly enough, only $600 of the total $22,434 of extra costs for medical care were spent solely on hearing loss related services. While the study did not determine exactly why costs are so much higher for those with untreated hearing loss, researchers offered some ideas that presented avenues for further investigation.
One idea follows the logical assumption regarding what kind of psychological fallout occurs as a result of untreated hearing loss. Higher incidences of depression and dementia occur within this population. Medical consequences of higher rates of depression, dementia, and similar conditions result in the form of more emergency room visits, hospital readmittance, and medical conditions related to falls.
Even though intuition would tell us that the high incidence of dementia, depression, hospital visits, and falls are due to untreated hearing loss, not enough scientific studies have been performed to establish this link. Another theory behind higher medical costs is the degraded communication ability between patient and provider. Those who have a difficult time hearing may misinterpret information provided to them by medical professionals.
However, recent changes in federal law have made the sale of over the counter assistive listening devices such as hearing aids permissible. This and increasing supply of assistive listening devices in doctors offices will help people with hearing loss communicate better and improve their quality of life.

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Learning From Couples With Hearing Loss

Couples dealing with sensory loss

Coping with sensory loss isn’t easy. Those who can talk to a peer for support have more success dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as other fallout from their loss. Peers dealing with the same issues can provide help, advice, and share common experiences.
While mechanisms such as talk therapy, support groups, and others have been around for some time, little research has been dedicated to discovering the long term benefits of peer support from the peer’s point of view.
Two studies were conducted that canvased the feedback of ordinary people and their partners or other support peers living with sensory loss. They were asked, “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?”
In the first study, people between ages 50 and 85, revealed some keen advice for people who find themselves in similar situations. They talked about how vital seeking support from peer organizations is, as well as gaining support from partners and healthcare professionals. Patient-led groups were at the top of the list for the kind of support participants suggested people seek. They highlighted key traits partners should have to support their loved ones adequately: honesty, patience, understanding, unity, acceptance, respect, compassion, positivity, and respect for independence.
The second study consisted of participants in a younger age category, but the results were similar. They focused on the importance of being compassionate, mutually supportive, patience, and understanding. Here are some quotes from the study:
“Talk to each about the difficulties; not only big issues but also the little frustrations in everyday life… Comfort and support each other when you face frustrations related to the sensory loss.”
– hard-of-hearing partner
“If you can, try to laugh about any mishaps – my partner laughs and lovingly calls me ‘silly lady’ whenever I keep bumping into things (that I don’t see) or misunderstand stuff he said. That takes the edge off and lets me laugh as well. Be intimate.”
– deafblind partner
Feeling supported was linked to showing understanding, patience, and acceptance. Thus, similar to the first study, these were also recommended by the participants of the second study:
“Find out what works best for you. Not everyone adapts the same. Be patient and tolerant of the partner’s frustration when simple ideas become obstacles because of misunderstandings.”
– deafblind partner
Professional Support
While participants highly encouraged the support of peers, they did not forget to emphasize the qualities of professional help as well. Many participants mentioned the benefits of counseling, online groups, healthcare professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and technical experts. In this way, peers and professionals can work together to provide a comprehensive network of support for those who are adjusting to or maintaining a full life living with hearing loss.
If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss, there are plenty of support waiting for you. Whether you need professional help or the friendship of a peer, reach out to one of our professionals today. We can help you find the support you need.

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What You Should Know About Preventing Hearing Loss In Preemies

protecting premies from hearing loss

Normal gestation time for a human fetus is 40 weeks and any child born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature. Being born premature presents a whole host of complications for a newborn and puts them at risk for health problems that can have life-long implications.
Premature babies – affectionately known as preemies – can suffer from a variety of health issues, like apnea, intraventricular hemorrhage, and respiratory distress syndrome, which can keep them in the hospital for weeks or months after they are born. But did you know that preemies are also at risk for hearing loss?
According to researchers, nearly 2-4% of premature infants are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss compared to 0.1-0.3% of their full-term counterparts. Since premature birth can be coupled with immediately life-threatening conditions, the risk of hearing loss is often overlooked or unappreciated during initial care. That being said, hearing loss in preemies can have lifelong consequences so special attention to its causes and treatments is of the utmost importance.
The Cause Of Hearing Loss
When we think of the causes of hearing loss in preemies, many of us might assume that it is often due to underdevelopment of the sensitive – yet important – organs and structures within the ear. Contrary to popular belief, however, the overwhelming consensus amongst neonatal hearing experts is that hearing loss in preemies is due to the antibiotics so frequently used to help the infants fight off infections.
It turns out that 1 in 500 people inherit a gene variation from their mothers that increases the risk of severe and irreversible hearing loss in infants after they are exposed to the commonly used antibiotic gentamicin.
While the solution to this issue may seem simple (just stop administering this antibiotic), gentamicin is incredibly effective at treating a whole host of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis, and endocarditis, so it can be critical in saving a newborn preemie’s life. Thus, the answer may lie not in avoiding gentamicin completely, but in knowing when the antibiotic many eventually cause irreversible hearing loss.
Preventing Preemie Hearing Loss
Luckily, many researchers have already dedicated themselves to this important task. A team at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester have been searching for a way to screen newborns for the genetic variation that increases this risk for hearing loss and have been making significant progress toward their goal. So far, the team believes that they have developed a genetic test for the gene variant that does not adversely affect the newborn.
Using a simple cheek swab, the team believes that they can generate a genetic test result in 30 minutes or less that can inform physicians as to whether or not they can administer gentamicin to a preemie, all within the recommended first hour after admission.
Another group of researchers is focusing on the antibiotics themselves. At Stanford University, a research team led by Tony Ricci, Ph.D., are looking to create a new generation of aminoglycosides – a type of broad-range antibiotic, which includes gentamicin among their ranks. Although these antibiotics save lives, they have a nasty side-effect: they cause hearing loss in about 20% of patients, particularly in newborns and people who take repeated doses.
To combat this issue, the Stanford researchers have created three new aminoglycoside antibiotics, all of which have molecules that are simply too large to enter the ion channels of the inner ear. Thus, these new antibiotics can significantly lower the risk of hearing loss, especially in preemies.
While the research is still in its early stages, the work of countless research teams will likely have a lasting impact on the prevalence of hearing loss in premature infants. As our understanding of premature infant hearing loss expands and new technologies are developed, we can work toward a world where premature babies can grow up to live long, healthy lives free from hearing loss.