As we all know hearing problems are common and can happen to people of any age. More than half of adults in their 70s have trouble hearing and 80% of 80-year-olds have hearing loss. This can make people feel alone, cause sadness, and even lead to memory problems. Devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants exist, but they don’t fully fix the issue. People need better ways to prevent or reverse hearing loss.
Various compelling reasons motivate researchers to delve into the biological causes of hearing loss. Firstly, understanding these causes can pave the way for more effective treatments. By identifying the specific mechanisms underlying hearing loss, scientists can design targeted interventions, like gene therapies or regenerative approaches, to restore or improve auditory function. For instance, recent research on gene activation in mice with hearing loss has shown promising results in reversing the condition, opening up possibilities for future treatments.
Moreover, uncovering the biological roots of hearing loss can lead to better diagnosis and prevention strategies. Early detection of hearing problems can be challenging, but by identifying biomarkers associated with hearing loss, healthcare professionals could diagnose issues sooner. This knowledge can also guide the development of preventive measures, such as lifestyle modifications to mitigate risks. Furthermore, investigating genetic factors can help unravel inherited causes of hearing loss, offering insights for genetic counseling and potential gene-based therapies, which holds potential for a more personalized and effective approach to treatment.
In a PNAS research article we reviewed titled Gene Activation Reverses Hearing Loss in Mice, by Authors Elisa Martelletti, Neil J Ingham, Karen P Steel at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA May 2, 2023 studied these biological factors in Endolymph.
The “cochlear duct” or “scala media” houses the endolymph fluid within a specific chamber of the cochlea. This fluid-filled space is situated between two other chambers: the scala vestibuli, which is located above the cochlear duct, and the scala tympani, which is located below the cochlear duct. The cochlear duct houses the essential sensory structure called the “organ of Corti,” where specialized hair cells are found. These hair cells play a crucial role by converting sound vibrations into electrical signals that are then transmitted to the brain for interpretation. The presence of the endolymph in the cochlear duct is vital for maintaining the proper environment for sound transduction and hearing.
One main reason for age-related hearing loss involves a special fluid called endolymph. This fluid has a lot of potassium and less sodium. It covers the top of hair cells in the ear and helps us hear. In the cochlea, this fluid has an important electric charge called the endocochlear potential (EP). When this charge is high, our hearing is good. Hair cells help us hear and keep our balance.
In the PNAS research article by Elisa Martelletti et al. (2023) they found Some mice, called Spns2 mutant mice, quickly lose their hearing because their EP (endocochlear potential) drops. The EP gets very high in the beginning for these mice, and then it drops, causing hearing problems. Researchers wanted to know if they could make the EP go back up and fix the hearing loss. Therefore, they gave these mice a special medicine called tamoxifen, and they did this when the mice were around 2 to 4 weeks old. They checked the mice’s hearing using special tests before and after giving them the medicine.
The primary use of Tamoxifen, a medication, is to treat certain types of breast cancer. It works by acting as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which means it has complex effects on estrogen receptors in the body.
Interestingly, tamoxifen apparently has been explored for its potential effects beyond cancer treatment. In this case, researchers have used it experimentally to activate specific genes or pathways, as seen in the study involving hearing loss in mice. The specific mechanisms behind these effects can vary and are still being studied.
Note: It’s important to note that tamoxifen is a powerful medication with potential side effects and risks. Guidance from a qualified healthcare professional is essential for using it, especially since its primary purpose is to treat cancer.
The scientists found that the hearing loss in the Spns2 mutant mice could be reversed by turning on the Spns2 gene. The mice’s hearing improved when they did this. This idea might not work exactly the same in humans, but it suggests that increasing the activity of a certain gene could help people with hearing problems. They also noticed that the sooner they turned on the gene, the better the mice’s hearing got. This tells us there’s a critical time period to fix hearing loss.
You might be wondering why this matters. Well, even though researchers conducted this study in mice, it demonstrates that it’s possible to repair one type of hearing loss. Also, because there are many mice with similar issues, this method might work for other problems too. Diseases that were thought to be impossible to treat might have some hope now.
So, in short, this study found a way to reverse hearing loss in mice by activating a certain gene. This gives hope that similar treatments could work for humans and other diseases too.
In conclusion, the pursuit of understanding the biological causes of hearing loss is a critical endeavor with far-reaching implications. As we continue to unravel the intricate mechanisms underlying this condition, the potential for groundbreaking advancements in treatment, diagnosis, and prevention becomes increasingly evident. The encouraging results from studies like the one on gene activation in mice with hearing loss emphasize the importance of ongoing research in this field.
The journey towards effective interventions for hearing loss is far from over. With an expanding body of knowledge and growing interest from the scientific community, we can anticipate a wave of further research and exploration into these topics. With the emergence of new discoveries and the development of innovative techniques, we will closely monitor the evolving publication landscape, eagerly anticipating the transformation of scientific insights into concrete solutions that could greatly enhance the lives of individuals impacted by hearing loss.
Thank you for reading and we promise to report more studies as we discover them.
In the realm of hearing and auditory health, staying informed about groundbreaking research is crucial. At Hears to U, Audiology, we’re committed to keeping you updated on both domestic and international studies. One remarkable hub of innovation is The Hearing Institute, situated at the prestigious Institut Pasteur in Paris. Established three years ago, this research center aims to revolutionize our approach to hearing loss. This approach currently relies on hearing aids and cochlear implants. “By creating this institute dedicated to hearing, we aspire to unravel the complexities of auditory perception, offering a beacon of hope to those grappling with hearing impairment,” states the institute.
Hearing loss isn’t limited by age, posing challenges from infancy to old age. For infants, the impact is particularly pronounced, as hearing plays a pivotal role in language acquisition. Regardless of age, hearing loss has wide-ranging implications for social interactions and is linked to cognitive decline. Particularly effecting the elderly.
Luc Arnal and Diane Lazard lead the Cognition and Auditory Communication team at the Hearing Institute. They’re embarking on a mission to decipher how the brain processes intricate audio signals and adjusts behavioral responses accordingly.
Diverse factors contribute to hearing loss. Genetic factors account for 75% of infant hearing loss cases at birth. Infections during pregnancy or ototoxic drug use account for the remaining 25%. In childhood, ear infections or illnesses like measles can lead to hearing loss. Across a person’s lifetime, exposure to excessive noise and aging become predominant causes.
Alarming statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that a staggering one billion young people, aged 12 to 35, face the risk of hearing loss due to recreational noise exposure. This includes loud concerts, sports events, and prolonged use of personal audio devices playing loud music. Urban areas, now home to 56% of the global population, are witnessing a surge in noise pollution. Aziz El-Amraoui, who leads the Progressive Sensory Disorders, Pathophysiology and Therapy Unit at the Hearing Institute, explains, “We are actively uncovering the mechanisms triggering hearing loss, with noise exposure being a significant factor.”
Stem cell research and gene studies are two distinct but interconnected fields within the realm of biomedical research. First, let’s define the two different methods used to help understand hearing loss.
This research focuses on understanding and harnessing the potential of stem cells. Undifferentiated cells, known as stem cells, have the ability to give rise to various specialized cell types in the body. These cells have the ability to self-renew. They can divide and produce more stem cells, and they can also differentiate into specific cell types with specialized functions. In stem cell research, scientists study the development of stem cells, their interactions with other cells, and methods to manipulate them for generating specific tissues or organs for transplantation or regenerative therapies. This field holds great promise for treating degenerative diseases, injuries, disorders and even hearing loss by replacing damaged or dysfunctional tissues with healthy ones generated from stem cells.
Gene studies, also known as genetics or genomics, focus on investigating the role of genes in health and disease. Genes are segments of DNA that contain the instructions for building proteins and other molecules essential for the functioning of cells and the body. Gene studies involve identifying specific genes associated with particular traits, conditions, or diseases. This field encompasses a wide range of research, including understanding genetic variations, mutations, and their effects on health. It also involves techniques such as gene sequencing, gene editing, and exploring the complex interactions between genes and environmental factors.
Since 2015, Christine Petit’s laboratory has delved into genetic factors predisposing individuals to noise-induced hearing loss. Her team identified a genetic condition causing early-onset hearing loss, demonstrating its impact even at lower sound levels. Collaborating with the Fundamental Mechanisms of Hearing and Precision Medicine laboratory, along with Paul Avan, a renowned physician, biophysicist, and audiology expert, they’re conducting a comprehensive study in partnership with the French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute (IRBA). This research aims to unveil genes linked to noise vulnerability and biomarkers indicative of underlying conditions. Paul Avan heads The Center for Research and Innovation in Human Audiology (CERIAH) at the Hearing Institute.
At the forefront of stem cell research, Raphael Etournay spearheads the Cochlear Development and Therapeutic Prospects group at the Hearing Institute. They’re harnessing stem cells to cultivate tiny organoids, about 1-2 mm in diameter, composed of sensory cells from the inner ear’s balance organ. Researchers are now extending these miniature structures to incorporate auditory cells. This innovation holds promise for testing novel therapies by screening for gene therapy viral vectors or substances that trigger auditory cell regeneration.
According, to this body of research, published on March 18, 2021, these studies encompass gene therapy investigations and the development of protocols employing psychoacoustic perception tests and electrophysiological measurements to assess hearing in individuals both with and without hearing loss. Some individuals unaffected by hearing loss still encounter difficulties in specific sound environments, necessitating precise hearing assessments. According to Dr. Avan, these protocols will prove invaluable for diagnostics, therapy monitoring, sound pollution measurement, and enhancing our comprehension of auditory perception and cognition.
Stem cell research and gene studies often intersect when investigating conditions influenced by both genetic factors and cellular processes. By studying stem cells to model diseases in the laboratory, allows understanding on how genetic mutations contribute to disease development. Additionally, gene editing techniques can be applied to stem cells to correct genetic mutations before using them for regenerative therapies. As such, these fields collaborate to enhance our understanding of disease mechanisms, in our case hearing loss and develop novel treatments.
We are looking forward to learning more about solving the mysteries and hopefully, some corrective measures in hearing loss, even if just for a genetic population as it is a start. Stay tuned as we find more research in the world around us.
The topic of aging is one that many people find challenging to discuss openly. The process of growing older can be likened to an adventurous rollercoaster ride. Aging fills life with both exhilarating highs and unforeseen challenges – certainly not for the faint-hearted! However, fear not, as we have some fascinating research to share that may just shift your perspective on aging. Prepare yourself for a journey of discovery, as we delve into the research on how our attitudes towards aging can significantly impact longevity and hearing health. Embracing a positive outlook on aging might just prove to be the key to a more fulfilling and healthy life. So, let’s dive into the study’s findings and uncover the transformative power of positive self-perceptions and their implications for both aging and hearing loss.
In this article, we are proud to showcase research conducted in 2002 that remains an ever-relevant and engaging subject of discussion. This study delves into the profound implications of positive self-perceptions on both longevity and hearing health. Despite the passage of time, these findings have continued to captivate the interest of experts and the general public alike. Cementing their place as a hot topic in contemporary discourse. Prepare to be enthralled by the enduring significance of this remarkable research, as we explore its continued impact and relevance in today’s world.
This article presents the findings of two studies that explore the impact of self-perceptions of aging on longevity and health, with a specific focus on hearing health. The research was conducted by Becca R Levy, Martin D Slade, Stanislav V Kasl, and Suzanne R Kunkel, and published by the American Psychological Association on January 8, 2002.
The first study aimed to determine whether individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging at baseline tend to live longer. The research involved 660 participants (332 women and 338 men) ranging in age from 50 to 94 years. The authors utilized the “Attitudes Toward Own Aging” subscale. This scale consisted of five items that assessed the participants’ perception of aging.
The study revealed a significant correlation between positive self-perceptions of aging and increased longevity. Participants with more positive scores lived, on average, 7.5 years longer than those with more negative perceptions. When analyzing the variables that influenced survival, the order of impact was found to be age, self-perception of aging, gender, loneliness, functional health, and socioeconomic status.
The second study aimed to determine whether the “will to live,” defined as a judgment of the perceived benefit of one’s life outweighing the perceived hardships, mediated the relationship between positive self-perceptions of aging and survival. The authors explored how these perceptions influenced individuals’ willingness to accept life-prolonging medical treatment.
The study found that the “will to live” partially mediated the relationship between positive self-perceptions of aging and longevity. This suggests that positive self-perceptions may directly and indirectly impact survival. Although the “will to live” played a significant role, other factors are likely involved in this relationship.
The study’s results emphasize the importance of maintaining positive self-perceptions of aging for both longevity and hearing health. The observed increase in life span of 7.5 years due to positive perceptions exceeds the impact of other health-related factors, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Additionally, individuals with a more optimistic outlook on aging tend to prioritize their health. This leads to better hearing health and overall well-being.
In conclusion, this research highlights the profound influence of self-perceptions of aging on life expectancy and hearing health. Encouraging positive attitudes towards aging may not only prolong life but also promote better hearing health outcomes. These findings underscore the significance of addressing age-related stereotypes and promoting healthy perspectives on aging in society.
As we gracefully age, much like a fine wine, we gather more character and experience, making life all the more flavorful. Embracing the process of aging opens doors to an array of fascinating and insightful moments that only time can bestow. With a touch of humor, we may encounter those amusing “senior moments,” and the art of mastering the classic “dad jokes” becomes second nature! Reminiscing about past times and sharing our treasured memories with younger generations can be a source of joy and connection that transcends generations. So, let’s raise a toast to the wonders of aging, where laughter, wisdom, and self-acceptance create a truly timeless experience! Here’s to cherishing the vitality of the heart and soul throughout life’s incredible journey!
Thank you for reading and Hears to U!
Karen M, edited by Kim
With that number expected to skyrocket to 2.5 billion by 2050, it’s crucial to address the challenges faced by this growing community. Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is not just an isolated issue. Often, it comes hand in hand with other chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular disease. These health concerns can significantly impact the quality of life, making it essential to find effective solutions.
Equipped with sensors that monitor vital signs like heart rate and oxygen saturation levels, these revolutionary “hearables” are poised to change the game. But how can they make a difference?
Astonishingly, various studies have shown that wearable devices, like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and apps, have already proven their effectiveness in promoting physical activity. And now, with the advent of sensor-enhanced hearing aids and Over-the-Counter (OTC) options, we’re on the verge of an exciting revolution.
Imagine this: sensor-enhanced hearing aids that motivate wearers to be more active, just like their wrist-worn counterparts! With the potential to improve overall well-being and alleviate chronic conditions, these ear-worn devices could be a game-changer. However, the impact depends on their widespread adoption and usage.
That’s why researchers are diving into the world of fitness technology to better understand its usage among adults with impaired speech-in-noise recognition (SIN). A study by Marieke F. et al. in the International Journey of Audiology that was published online Nov 14, 2022 addresses this topic of hearables.
1. How many adults with impaired SIN recognition regularly use fitness technology, such as smartwatches, fitness watches, or physical activity apps, compared to their normal-hearing peers?
2. What are the characteristics of adults with impaired SIN recognition who use fitness technology? How do they differ from those with normal SIN recognition who use these devices?
In a fascinating study with 725 participants, including those with and without impaired speech in noise recognition, the results were astonishing. Adults with hearing impairment displayed similar characteristics to their normal-hearing counterparts when it came to using fitness technology. However, it was noted that hearing aid users utilized fitness watches less frequently. This could pose an exciting challenge when ear-worn fitness trackers enter the market.
The implications are profound – the potential to reach inactive adults with hearing impairment and encourage them to lead more active lifestyles is undeniable. But, of course, the road ahead is paved with further research and fine-tuning. By understanding physical activity patterns among adults with hearing impairment, we can develop targeted interventions to address their unique needs.
While fitness wearables and apps offer a promising way to increase activity, they might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, for those who embrace this technology, the benefits are limitless.
If you’re curious to dive deeper into the world of hearables and learn more about this groundbreaking study, reach out to Hears to U, Audiology, Hearing & Hearables in Minnesota. The journey to a more active, empowered life for the hearing impaired awaits!
Thanks for reading and we hope it was helpful for you.
Written by: Lei Zhang, Xiuyi Wang, Claude Alain, Yi, Du
Research article: April 26, 2023
Reviewed by Karen M.
A myriad of cognitive deficits are associated with aging. According to the revised model of the scaffolding theory of aging and cognition, both aging and life course experience influences brain structure and function, as well as the development of compensatory scaffolding. Read on to learn more about the impact of music on aging.
For example, as we grow older and go through different life experiences, they can have an impact on how our brain is structured and functions. Aging and the various things we encounter in life can influence how our brain develops alternative connections to compensate for any changes or declines that may occur. This process is known as compensatory scaffolding, where the brain builds new pathways to help support its functioning. In simpler terms, both getting older and the things we experience in life can affect how our brain works and how it adapts to changes by creating new connections.
Park and Reuter-Lorenz proposed the scaffolding theory of aging and cognition in 2009. Their theory states that the brain adapts to neural atrophy (dying of brain cells) by building alternative
connections, referred to as scaffolding. So while aging is associated with reductions in cortical thickness, white-matter integrity, and functional engagement of certain areas of the brain, there are compensatory increases in frontal functional engagement.
For example, As we age, certain changes occur in our brain. These changes include a decrease in the thickness of the outer layer of the brain called the cortex, a decline in the integrity of the white matter (the part of the brain responsible for transmitting signals), and less active engagement of specific brain areas. However, our brain has a clever way of compensating for these changes. It increases its activity in the frontal region, which is responsible for important functions like decision-making and problem-solving. In simpler terms, although aging may cause some parts of the brain to decline, other areas step up their activity to make up for it.
This compensatory scaffolding could shore up declining structures whose functioning has become noisy, inefficient, or both. Positive lifestyle choices, like long-term musical training, contributes to neural resource enrichment, which could mitigate the negative impacts of aging.
Hears to U also acknowledges that hearing in noise is one of the most common problems that bring patients to seek help from a hearing care professional. We also love to work with musicians and know they sometimes need more specialized care.
What does this mean for musicians? The impact of music on aging does play a role in understanding speech in noise. Anatomical overlap in the brain networks that process music and speech drives the advantage musicians have in speech processing. Compared to older non-musicians, older musicians have enhanced central auditory processing functions and preserved cognitive abilities.
1. Older musicians show preserved speech representation patterns that are similar to young adults
2. Older musicians recruit additional sensory and frontal speech motor regions as a compensation
3. Older musicians deactivate default mode network regions to a greater extent as compensation.
There were 25 older musicians, 25 older non-musicians, and 24 younger non-musicians that identified syllables in noise under three signal-to-noise ratios with as is normal visual lip movements inside the MRI scanner. As the researchers hypothesized, older non-musicians performed worse than younger non-musicians, and older musicians performed better than older non-musicians plus equally well as the younger non-musicians. Showing that, in fact, the impact of music on aging does make a difference.
This study showed that being a musician for a long time helps reduce the difficulties older people may have in understanding speech in noisy situations. This is achieved by preserving the brain’s functionality and making up for any deficits through compensation. If you are a musician reading this, congratulations, especially if you have kept up with your music. If you’re not a musician, don’t worry! Other studies suggest brain exercises that you can do to keep your mind sharp. Learning to play a musical instrument is one of those exercises. Let’s create more music in the world!
Hears Hearing & Hearables enjoys presenting current research to our readers and our customers as well. I hope you enjoyed it; we look forward to more research as well.
Welcome to our review of the article “Disruptions to the Hearing Health Sector: Implications and Opportunities for Consumer Understanding.” Authored by a team of experts, including Isabelle Boisvert, Adam G Dunn, Erik Lundmark, Jennifer Smith-Merry, Wendy Lipworth, Amber Willink, Sarah E Hughes, Michele Nealon, and Melanie Calvert, this publication explores the dynamic landscape of the hearing health sector and its impact on consumers.
The authors shed light on the challenges and opportunities arising from these disruptions, with a particular emphasis on data privacy, product safety, accessibility, and the importance of equitable hearing health for individuals worldwide.
The introduction of within-ear wearable devices, known as hearables, coupled with the World Health Organization’s call to action, has opened up avenues for increased access to hearing interventions. By addressing the impact of hearing loss on various aspects of life, such as communication, social connections, education, and employment, these advancements aim to enhance overall well-being.
These statements from credible organizations highlight the significance of addressing data privacy, product safety, accessibility, and equitable hearing health to create a positive and inclusive impact on individuals worldwide.
This regulatory change driven by technological capabilities offers safe and effective options for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. However, the emergence of OTC alternatives may lead to shifts in market dynamics, affecting traditional hearing aid manufacturers, organizations, and clinicians. This could result in decreased options for some individuals and potentially more aggressive advertising targeting those with severe hearing loss.
For example, this shift of decreased options for individuals with more severe hearing loss is possible as the focus and resources of manufacturers and providers may be redirected towards catering to the OTC consumer market.
Additionally, with the increased availability of OTC devices, there is as mentioned a possibility of more aggressive advertising targeting individuals with severe hearing loss. This could lead to a complex market landscape where individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss are exposed to different marketing strategies and may have limited access to appropriate interventions that address their specific needs.
It is important to consider these implications and ensure that individuals with severe hearing loss continue to have access to comprehensive hearing healthcare options, including professional evaluation and fitting, while also promoting the accessibility and affordability of hearing aids for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
As hearing devices integrate advanced features like biosensors and connectivity to smart home systems, concerns arise regarding data ownership, access, and potential conflicts of interest. The close relationships between device developers, hearing health providers, and financial interests tied to device sales warrant careful attention to ensure data privacy and ethical practices.
Professional education across health and disability sectors plays a pivotal role in meeting the communication and safety needs of individuals with hearing loss. Expanding the knowledge base of professionals can benefit those who lack access to hearing care or opt for direct-to-consumer devices without professional guidance. Empowering a wide range of professionals to support people with hearing loss can improve engagement and satisfaction with healthcare overall.
In conclusion, this thought-provoking article highlights the disruptions and opportunities in the hearing health sector, underscoring the importance of consumer understanding and the need for ethical practices. By addressing access and affordability, data privacy, and conflicts of interest while promoting equitable hearing care, the article paves the way for inclusive and accessible hearing health solutions for all. Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables is aware of all these issues and is the reason why we have created our new online accessible, affordable, transparent, ethical, compassionate store with the goals of building a ethical network of hearing health care professionals.
By prioritizing consumer-centric approaches, Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables located in Minnesota aims to provide reliable and comprehensive information to individuals with hearing loss, empowering them to make informed decisions about their hearing care. Through their initiatives, Hears Hearing & Hearables strives to bridge gaps in transparency, mitigate conflicts of interest, and ensure that safe, evidence-based, and cost-effective hearing and communication support is accessible to all. By championing transparency and equitable care, Hears Hearing & Hearables sets a positive example for the industry, fostering trust in the consumer and promoting inclusive practices.
I just wanted to take a moment to talk to those of you who are interested in this topic. 2022 was a significant year for many reasons. The Build Back Better (BBB) Bill passed the House, but not the Senate. Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aids made their debut in October, 2022. Let’s look at these more closely, so that you can understand why we are doing at Hears, Hearing &Hearables is so important.
You will recall that the Build Back Better (BBB) Bill had several provisions that would have made a big difference to those who care about hearing. A few high points would have been adding services to an audiologist to their list of covered services, categorize hearing aids as a prosthetic device, and add coverage for hearing aids once every five years. Unfortunately, these provisions were not put into action because the bill did not pass.
Medigap plans (supplemental insurance) are those meant to help pay for costs not covered by Medicare (like your copays). However, if Medicare does not pay for the service, then Medigap supplement doesn’t either. People then hear and turn to look at Medicare Part C plans; also known as Medicare Advantage Plans. The services these plans provide and their costs vary widely. Not only do they vary by insurance company but they vary from plan to plan. The average cost for these plan is over $50/month.
Many Medicare Part C plans use a Third Party Administrator (TPA) to take on the administrative burden usually done by HR or a finance team; ie: enrollment, insurance claims, reimbursement, record-keeping etc. Within hearing health care, they negotiate discounts, coverage, and benefits with the manufacturers. These plans ask Audiologists and hearing aid dispensers to sign up to be a provider. The third party administrator refer their “members” to registered, in-network providers. For instance, Aetna’s Medicare plans use NationsHearing while Anthem Blue Cross plans use TruHearing. UnitedHealth Care owns their own TPA and has some kind of contract with a manufacturer. As we have discussed in other blogs, these types of plans can severely limit your options. They are often sold to you as a benefit, but what you receive is a discounted hearing aid.
What is also difficult to discern is who owns these TPAs? Some of these are owned by insurance companies along with hearing aid manufacturers. When you go to these providers, you are sometimes asked which level of technology you would like; not between hearing aid manufacturers or models of hearing aid. It is not true that one hearing aid sounds the same as another, just like any other product choice, they are all a bit different. And sadly the choice of the hearing aid product has already been made. The plan has also already decided how many visits they will cover to your network provider. Choices and transparency are no where to be found.
Several came available in October, with more coming out each month. Few articles have been written about the impact of OTC aids on users and the market; it is early days yet. More research is coming and we will let you know more as we learn more.
While I know that many House members and their Senate colleagues worked hard to pass the BBB Bill, they were unsuccessful. Having OTC aids available should not stop us from writing our Congressmen to ask for better hearing aid coverage within Medicare. Yes, it will increase government spending. However, I cannot help but think that the increased cost to Medicare would be outweighed by the cost savings if people were able to get hearing aids when they were needed. It has long been shown that preventive care is less expensive than care required when treatment is delayed; pro-active care is less expensive than reactive care.
We also had in mind to create a company with a network that is not owned by a manufacturer or a hearing aid vendor manufacturer. We don’t want to have a conflict of interest and we want to provide the most transparent services. Not only are we trying to help the customer, we are also trying to help the audiologist or the hearing care professional to earn a decent fee for the work they do to help the client hear better. The TPA model gives a little fee to the “in-network” provider if and only if the hearing aid(s) are not returned. The providers do not make money if the customer returns the aid even after all their work. It is true that if you are pushed a product, you the consumer, may not like the aid and rightfully so should return the hearing aid. But it isn’t the fault of the provider in this case, who can not offer you anything else for fear of a bait and switch. And after all the providers work, they do not earn their fee.
I know some customers are looking for the least expensive option for them to hear. This search for the “cheapest” hearing aid that you can find is part of the problem. Because of this search, these TPAs have set up to offer the most discounted hearing aids they can possibly negotiate. This is coming at a cost not only to the customer because of the lack of transparency but also significantly impacting audiologists and hearing care providers around the United States. Clinicians need to have a decent wage. We, the people in the US have been talking about increasing minimum wage so people can make a decent living. The field of audiology is hurting because of these low paid service fees.
The unfair competitive act states the following: “Generally, unfair competition consists of two elements: First, there is some sort of economic injury to a business, such as loss of sales or consumer goodwill. Second, this economic injury is the result of deceptive or otherwise wrongful business practices.” Let us break this down for you. The economic injury is hurting the private practice, ENT and other independent hearing professionals. The consumer is wanting the lowest cost hearing aid they can find, thinking that it is a benefit, which is a deceptive practice from these advantage plans. I believe all the Medicare advantage plan wants is your monthly premiums.
First of all, we are not owned by an insurance company or a hearing aid manufacturer. We offer all styles of hearing aids and hearables with our prices listed on the website. We carry OTC hearing aids for those people who have a mild hearing loss and just want a little hearing help. You know exactly how much everything will cost. We offer competitive FAIR pricing; payment plans are available. Keeping in mind, it is possible that a pair of hearing aids will cost what you pay in monthly premiums; depending on the level of technology you want.
We are offering them a service fee, revealed to you so that you know how much their fee is and how much the product costs. We call this an unbundled model so that you, the customer, can see the fees and get what you need, and what you can afford. Then we will help you find a provider near you, if we don’t have someone near you in our network, that will accept fees for service at a fair and reasonable cost to our customer. Sometimes we may not find a provider near you. Many of the independent providers are already gone. Sadly some providers do not understand what we are trying to do and don’t want another TPA. We are different I tell them. I too don’t want another TPA. You will get paid for your time and your service fees are non refundable. Service rendered is non refundable just like any other service industry, like a chiropractor, a physical therapist and even a dentist. Why should service to audiology and hearing instrument dispensers be any different. Often audiologists and service providers bundle their fees in the cost of the hearing aid. The fees are too much for what many people need. We get it and support a transparent unbundled model. We also get that the provider needs to be paid and not part of a bundle.
Until Medicare covers hearing aids or the congress people figure out that these TPA are creating a monopoly and hurting other businesses, we will try and do the best we can for the customer and the provider. We hope you all will understand and will support the mission. Walk the walk with us as they say to support the hard workers instead of the greed by our broken health care system.
Please join us and write your Congressmen. Medicare needs to address all the needs of an aging population and the clinicians that serve them . We are hopeful.
by Karen, edited by Kim
If you are eager to learn about the latest and greatest in Consumer Technology, then look no further than the CES Conference. It is an annual conference organized by the Consumer Technology Association. Typically it is held in Las Vegas in January and hosts presentations on new products and technologies in the consumer electronics industry. The topics are as varied as the name would suggest; ranging from accessibility to smart homes/cities to health, fitness, and gaming. Hosts include manufacturers, developers, and suppliers of consumer technology. It is also a place where the world’s business leaders and pioneering thinkers address the industry’s most pressing issues.
You can imagine that the opportunity to present your product or idea on such a platform could change a business quickly. Not only do people attend in person, but you can follow along online through multiple media sources in real-time as well as through podcasts. So if you missed this year, you can attend in the future and learn what was present this year.
Also, as you can imagine, a supplier or an inventor may go to the conference with the idea of pitching their product to a certain clientele, then realize their idea may have additional applications. Since you are reading this on a blog dedicated to hearing and hearing health, I bet you can guess what types of products I will talk about in this blog.
Some are household names (like Sony), or known to people in the industry, (like NuHeara), while still others are perhaps less well known (like Orka). Other hearing health care technology companies were presenting new hearables (like the OrCam Hear) or accessories for hearing aids (like the Redux professional drying system for hearing aids).
Most people think new technology is good, but for some it can be confusing; others find the new sounds to be too much. That is why we want you to understand all of your options before you purchase. In hearing aids, including OTC hearing aids, one size does not fit all. We are here to guide you through the process with care and transparency. All costs, fees and services are available at any time.
Please contact us if you have any question about this blog or the conference. We are ready to answer any and all of your questions. Happy Hearing!
The first access route to the complex nerve structures of the human inner ear has been developed by Nottingham scientists as part of an international collaboration including scientists from additional sites in the UK, Sweden, and Canada. The research was published in Scientific Reports on 8 Nov 2022. The citation for that original article is at the end of the summation of this article.
The human auditory nerve lies in the inner ear (the cochlea), deep in the base of the skull and encased by some of the hardest bones in the body. This difficult access hampers progress toward developing new treatments for hearing loss. The structures of the cochlea are microscopic and well beyond the resolution of clinical imaging modalities. Although micro-computed tomography (or micro-CT which uses X-rays to create a 3-D image) provides sufficient spatial resolution, apparently additional contrast agents are needed to discern soft tissues.
Using advanced 3-D models, however, generated through particle acceleration (called a synchrotron), the researchers have created detailed, computer-generated images of the cochlea resulting in a safe pathway to the inner ear that will enable new treatments to be delivered directly to the auditory nerve. The detailed definition of the arrangement of nerves and blood vessels in the cochlea will enable medical treatments that could, for the first time, regenerate the nerve structures that are crucial to hearing and that are permanently lost in many with hearing loss.
Gerard O’Donoghue, an otologist at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust said, “The inaccessibility of the human cochlea has hampered the progress of curative treatments for nerve-type hearing loss today, and these research findings open a vista of opportunities for researchers in this field.”
The research of this review was funded by the biotechnology company, Rinri Therapeutics, and by various grants at the participating institutions, including from the UK’s National Institute of Health Research.
The company’s technology aims to reverse hearing loss through the repair and regeneration of the damaged nerves in the inner ear. Dr. Simon Chandler, CEO of Rinri Therapeutics said, “We believe these findings will have an immediate impact on both our understanding of the detailed structures of the nerve of hearing and on future clinical initiatives which are urgently needed to reduce the global health burden caused by deafness.”
For all those who suffer from irreversible hearing loss, this is amazing news. Now, researchers can begin to develop new treatments to address all the causes of nerve-related hearing loss. Those who wish they could hear like they did when they were children, your wish may come to be. Unfortunately, medical research is a slow process. It is more likely that our children and grandchildren will be the recipients of these new modalities.
We thank you for reading another one of the research reviews that we like to share with you. If you have any questions please contact us at Hears Hearing & Hearables or our small cute clinic in Hopkins, Minnesota at Hears to U Audiology.
Citation for original research article:
Li, H., Agrawal, S., Rohani, S.A. et al. Unlocking the human inner ear for therapeutic intervention. Sci Rep 12, 18508 (2022).
The hearing losses inherent to the natural process of aging represent a major public health issue. The audiogram is still today considered the gold standard which includes pure tone audiometry (PTA), bone conduction thresholds, and speech testing. The audiogram is the main hearing test used to identify the hearing threshold levels of a person, enabling the determination of the diagnosis of the degree, type, and configuration of a hearing loss. If you have not had a hearing test done by an audiologist, perhaps you remember being tested in school or at the doctor’s office. You might remember putting on earphones and raising your hand when you heard the “beep”. This is the “pure tone” part of the testing. Pure tone testing is also called air conduction testing since the sounds go through your outer and middle ear. This test helps find the quietest sound you can hear at different frequencies.
Hearing impairment refers to any restriction or lack of ability to perceive sound and to perform tasks due to hearing problems. Hearing loss is considered having thresholds across a range of frequencies below 20 or 25 dB HL. Interestingly, many people who have hearing thresholds within normal limits also have some trouble hearing. And just because you may or may not have a hearing loss, may or may not mean you have difficulty hearing in various environments. A great solution to figure out if you need help is to determine via an interview or a little test to see if you do struggle to hear and to what degree and in which environments. These types of tests are called hearing handicap assessments. There are many tests that a human can take.
Because this is an online store it isn’t easy to do a hearing test on our visitors unless you do one online. However, we don’t think that test gives us enough information about our visitors so we have evaluated this assessment to use to help.
Hearing handicap refers to the emotional and social aspects resulting from hearing impairment, which can sometimes restrict the person’s participation in everyday activities, as well as impact family relationships and social interactions.
In 1983, the authors published a reduced version containing only 10 questions but also divided between social and emotional aspects: the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly-Screening version (HHIE-S), proposed as a screening tool to detect the degree of hearing complaints.
We reviewed this study to assess the accuracy of the HHIE-S in the diagnosis of hearing loss in the elderly compared to pure-tone tests that one finds on other online selling websites. Hearing Loss in the Elderly: Is the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly-Screening Version Effective in Diagnosis When Compared to the Audiometric Test? Investigated by: Alexandre Barbosa Servidoni and Lucieni de Oliveira Conterno. Published in International Archives of Otorhinolaryngology Published online Mar 31, 2017
The study was conducted with a group of patients in Brazil. The study participants were over the age of 60 whom were not already in the process of audiological rehabilitation and had no active infectious diseases or tumors. 138 patients were included in the study. The HHIE-S questionnaire was given by the same researcher with each item read orally and immediately answered by the study participant. After the questionnaire, the individual was then referred for further examination doing the pure tone audiometry testing (done by a speech pathologist and most often on the same day as the questionnaire).
The HHIE-S showed that 33 (23.9%) had no perception of hearing handicap, 65 (47.1%) had mild/moderate perception of handicap, and 40 (29%) had a significant perception of handicap. So the prevalence of hearing impairment by the HHIE-S questionnaire was 105/138 (76.1%)!
The PTA evaluation of these patients showed normal hearing in 28 (20.3%); mild hearing loss in 39 (28.3%); moderate loss in 53 (38.4%); severe loss in 13 (9.4%) and profound hearing loss in 5 (3.6%). The prevalence of hearing impairment was 110/138 (79.7%).
Comparing the results into a few categories:
Evaluating the results of this study, the authors noticed a greater agreement on the extremes, that is, between persons with normal hearing and absent handicaps and between those with profound hearing loss and severe handicaps. The data seems to suggest that the HHIE-S is more suitable to identify more disabling hearing losses. It appears that pure tone testing alone is not sufficient to describe the reaction of the person before a hearing disorder; it does not detect the hearing handicap. Yet, the HHIE-S alone is not always able to accurately detect auditory sensitivity.
The study authors conclude that the HHIE-S questionnaire is suitable in the screening for hearing loss in the elderly, given its high accuracy and user-friendly format. Moreover, it is a simple and inexpensive tool, requiring little time for its application. It must be kept in mind that no patient should be in a process of rehabilitation without both instruments, the PTA and the HHIE-S, complementing each other.
Because of these results and the nature in which we want to provide accessible, affordable, and helpful solutions, we are going to be implementing the short-form screening tool of the Hearing Handicap Inventory. But please don’t be surprised if we also ask you for a copy of your audiogram or if you have your pure tone scores.
This questionnaire could help you convince a loved one that their hearing loss is causing problems, or if you are considering seeking help, it could help you quantify how your possible hearing loss is impacting your life. Perhaps having an idea of your hearing handicap before the hearing test will help you come to terms with a possible plan of action or solution to take care of your needs before your first appointment. Being aware is the first step in getting some help. Sometimes that first diagnosis is a shock; even if you suspect it before coming to the appointment. Those in hearing health care want the process to be as smooth and painless as possible for all our patients. Happy Hearing!
Karen (edited by Kim)