How Does The Brain Respond To Hearing Loss?

How does the brain respond to hearing loss?

This article was posted on Science Daily, link to the full article here.

Adults with mild age-related hearing loss (right) show brain reorganization in which hearing portions of their brain are recruited for processing visual patterns. This is not seen in age-matched adults with normal hearing (left).
Credit: Anu Sharma

Researchers at the University of Colorado suggest that the portion of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized — reassigned to other functions — even with early-stage hearing loss, and may play a role in cognitive decline.

Anu Sharma, of the Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science at University of Colorado, has applied fundamental principles of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to forge new connections, to determine the ways it adapts to hearing loss, as well as the consequences of those changes. She will present her findings during the 169th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), being held May 18-22, 2015 in Pittsburgh.

The work of Sharma’s group centers on electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of adults and children with deafness and lesser hearing loss, to gain insights into the ways their brains respond differently from those of people with normal hearing. EEG recordings involve placing multiple tiny sensors — as many as 128 — on the scalp, which allows researchers to measure brain activity in response to sound simulation, Sharma said.

Sound simulation, such as recorded speech syllables, is delivered via speakers, to elicit a response in the form of “brain waves” that originate in the auditory cortex — the most important center for processing speech and language — and other areas of the brain. “We can examine certain biomarkers of cortical functioning, which tell us how the hearing portion of a deaf person’s brain is functioning compared to a person with normal hearing,” Sharma said.

Sharma and other researchers have recently discovered that the areas of the brain responsible for processing vision or touch can recruit, or take over, areas in which hearing is normally processed, but which receive little or no stimulation in deafness. This is called “cross-modal” cortical reorganization and reflects a fundamental property of the brain to compensate in response to its environment.

“We find that this kind of compensatory adaptation may significantly decrease the brain’s available resources for processing sound and can affect a deaf patient’s ability to effectively perceive speech with their cochlear implants,” said Sharma. Cochlear implants are implanted devices that bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Sharma, with her students Julia Campbell and Garrett Cardon, also recently made the discovery that “cross-modal recruitment of the hearing portion of the brain by the senses of vision and touch happens not only in deaf patients, but is also clearly apparent in adult patients with only a mild degree of hearing loss.”

“The hearing areas of the brain shrink in age-related hearing loss,” she continued. “Centers of the brain that are typically used for higher-level decision-making are then activated in just hearing sounds.”

The group’s work suggests that the portion of the brain used for hearing can become reorganized, even in earliest stages of age-related hearing loss. And, “these compensatory changes increase the overall load on the brains of aging adults,” Sharma said. This finding has important clinical implications for developing early screening programs for hearing loss in adults.

“Compensatory brain reorganization secondary to hearing loss may also be a factor in explaining recent reports in the literature that show age-related hearing loss is significantly correlated with dementia,” Sharma said.

Further, the results suggest that age-related hearing loss must be taken seriously, even in its earliest stages. “One in three adults over the age of 60 has age-related hearing loss,” Sharma noted. “Given that even small degrees of hearing loss can cause secondary changes in the brain, hearing screenings for adults and intervention in the form of hearing aids should be considered much earlier to protect against reorganization of the brain.”

Sharma’s group has demonstrated that charting brain functioning in patients with cochlear implants is a valuable tool to help predict their outcomes. “If a deaf child shows cross-modal reorganization — by vision, for example — it allows us to determine the optimal rehabilitation strategy for that particular child,” she said.

Next, Sharma and colleagues will continue to explore fundamental aspects of neuroplasticity in deafness that may help improve outcomes for children and adults with hearing loss and deafness. “Our goal is to develop user-friendly EEG technologies, to allow clinicians to easily ‘image’ the brains of individual patients with hearing loss to determine whether and to what degree their brains have become reorganized,” she said. “In this way, the blueprint of brain reorganization can guide clinical intervention for patients with hearing loss.”

Sharma’s research group receives support from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

 

We Love Hearing From Our Patients

SocialMedia

We love hearing feedback from our patients!  While Twitter is a very public forum and not everyone will want to share a hospital recover picture there, we still love engaging with our patients on social media.  So please, ‘Like’, ‘Share’, and ‘Tweet’ with us!

Tackling Resistance To Hearing Aids- One Misconception At A Time Vol. 1

We are starting a new mini-series on this blog: Tackling Resistance to Hearing Aids- One Misconception At A Time.  According to the Better Hearing Institute, people delay a solution for multiple reasons, including but not limited to inadequate information, stigma, and undervaluing the ability to hear.  We are going to start tackling these issues one at a time.

Volume 1: Hearing aids will make me look ‘old’

This is simply untrue!  If the hearing aids allow you to function like a normal-hearing person, and hear in situations where you may not have before, they are not making you look old, in fact they are returning you to an active and social lifestyle.  Untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than a hearing aid.  Missing the punchline of a joke, and smiling and nodding your way through a conversation you cannot hear is drastically more noticeable than the largest hearing aid on the market.  Further, hearing aid manufacturers know that vanity exists, and have largely reduced the size of modern hearing aids, and incorporated sleek, digital, high-tech looks into the devices.  So what are you giving up for your vanity- hearing a child’s laughter, the whispers of a loved one, the birds chirping on a summer morning?  Don’t fake your way through a conversation.  Own your hearing loss, take action, and get back in control.

Remember: 
Not-Worth-It

Awards Luncheon For Audiology Training Completion

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This year, our office coordinated and completed a comprehensive audiology training for the entire staff. It started with a conference follow-up and introduction to our training program, followed by an Audiology overview presentation, followed by an ABR and hearing aid programming demonstration. Today, we reviewed the highlights of what everyone learned, and discussed over a delicious catered lunch. Our audiology team is so grateful to have an office full of amazing staff, and everyone received a thank-you gift for completing the training. Oh, and there was some dancing too!

Congratulations Graduates!

Congratulations to everyone who is graduating this weekend, and this spring.  We have several patients of whom we are very proud!  Remember, untreated hearing loss can have huge impacts on educational performance.  If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, get them tested today.  Treating even a mild hearing loss can make a big difference, and hearing aid patients are consistently top-of-the-class students!

Smart Watches

VibraQuartz Vibrating Alarm WatchDid you know that the Apple Watch is not the first vibrating watch?  Vibrating watches have been around for years as assistive devices for the hearing impaired.  They come in many forms: analog, digital, for adults, kids, etc.  Some examples can be found here at Harris Communications.

What’s great about this new technology, is that the Apple Watch works with made-for-iPhone hearing aids.  If you have already been fit with these hearing aids, or are interesting in learning about how this technology can better your quality of life, contact an audiologist today. 

Continued Office Audiology Training

IMG_0053In January, our clinicians went to an audiology summit, and returned with new skills, motivation and momentum.  Since that time, our entire office has been receiving training on audiology in general, and all of the procedures we perform and services we offer.  We started off with a summary of our summit, and an introduction to our plans for audiology training.  This meeting was in the morning, and we created a homemade breakfast burrito bar!  That post can be found here.  A few weeks later, we had a presentation covering audiology and the services we offer, over lunch with homemade pizzas.  That post can be found here.  After that presentation, our entire office received a checklist of audiology services to either observe or experience first hand.  Our staff has been so great and motivated to participate, and we have received positive feedback that they have all learned a lot.  This type of training is important, because it better enables our staff to have meaningful conversations with our patients, and offer insight and empathy.

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Today, we all gathered to observe an ABR and some hearing aid programming with our very own Randi Holmes as a patient.  We were able to hook IMG_0052our laptop up to the projector, so everyone could see the ABR and hearing aid software on the big screen.

 

Next week, everyone will be done with their observations, and we will all gather for a celebratory catered lunch.  We will all share what we learned from the observations, and further answer any questions.  We have such an incredible team in our office, and are so grateful for our amazing staff!

 

 

 

 

Living With Hearing Loss In The Real World

Hearing loss affects millions of people, yet only a small fraction of people who could benefit from intervention take action.  “I can get by” is often a phrase people use to avoid addressing their hearing loss.  However, digital technology has progressed incredibly in recent years, and you no longer need to just ‘get by’.  Let’s consider a real-world difficult listening situation: the airport.

It’s busy, crowded, you’re running late, and the lines are longer than you expected.  You are trying to keep track of your entire family’s boarding documents, when you think you hear an announcement notifying travelers of a gate change.  Did they say B8 or same gate?  Hear The World Foundation has a great hearing loss simulator outlining this very situation.  Click here to open the simulator in a new tab.  Adjust the volume to a comfortable level, and then listen to the same announcement  through a progression of hearing levels.

 

Ditch the frustration, and take action against your hearing loss.  Untreated hearing loss simply isn’t worth it.  Research shows that treating even a mild hearing loss can lead to increased quality of life.  Don’t wait for it to get worse.  Call an audiologist today for a hearing evaluation, and take control over your quality of life.

 

Balloon Friday

Many offices have casual Friday – jeans, golf shirts – no ties or coats, and many knock off early to start their weekend. Fridays at ENT & Audiology Associates could not be more different. Morning is devoted to a full clinic where many outpatient ENT and audiology needs are met. In the afternoon the audiologists are seeing hearing aid patients, while the nursing staff and Dr Holmes transition from clinic visits to preparing for Friday afternoon ENT & Audiology BALLOON SINUPLASTY. Yesterday four patients kissed their sinus problems good bye. They took an oral sedative, had local topical anesthetic cotton pledgets placed carefully and delicately in their nose, and with nasal endoscopy using small scopes had sinus catheter balloons widen the openings to their maxillary and frontal sinuses. Minimal discomfort, no bruising, no packing. Beats the Hell out of going to the OR. And cost savings for the patients is amazing – no facility fees or anesthesia bills. On average our patients save about $6000 by having their sinus issues addressed with in office balloon sinuplasty vs going to the OR. About one hour after walking in they were treated and wheeled out to their car (they could have walked, but we provide cadillac TLC treatment), on the path to a new life free of sinus pressure, headaches, and sinus infections.
It’s a great afternoon!!!

WiFi

We now have free WiFi in our office available to our patients and guests.  This will make it easier for downloading hearing aid apps, liking us on Facebook while in the waiting room, and reading this very blog!

Audiology Training With Homemade Pizzas

Today we had a great office workshop.  The audiologists put on a presentation for the entire office staff, offering more education and training on what all is involved in hearing evaluations, and all of the other services we provide.  Randi headed up a homemade pizza station.  We had about 6 pizza stones going at once, with toppings ranging from spinach, pineapples, to anchovies!  We are excited about everything that was accomplished today.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

 

Using a green listening stethoset today!

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