New Breakthrough Gives Hope to Millions of Seniors with Hearing Loss

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Scientists Succeeded to Regrow Sensory Hairs Necessary for Proper Hearing

A new study published September 30, 2018, in the European Journal of Neuroscience is about a major breakthrough that could possibly restore hearing loss to more than 40 million Americans who have experienced some degree of hearing impairment.

Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have learnt how to re-grow sensory hair cells in the cochlea, which is the part of the inner ear necessary to hear properly. Aging and damage from noise can permanently harm this part of the ear and result in hearing loss. The researchers succeeded mainly to regrow sensory hairs in vitro in the lab, but also claim to have succeeded in vivo with newly born mice.

Birds have Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)

Unlike mammals who have no way of regenerating sensory hair cells in their ears to restore hearing loss, other creatures like birds, frogs and fish have the ability to replace damaged hair sensory cells. Previous research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2012 discovered that birds have epidermal growth factor (EGF) sensors that can help to restore damaged hair cells in their ears. The researchers wondered if somehow this procedure could be programmed for mammals as well and they turned their research to working with mice and used various techniques for signaling with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).

Hearing Loss in Seniors

The AARP cites research associating hearing loss in seniors with an increased risk for contracting dementia. Finding a way to restore hearing loss in seniors not only can ward off full deafness, but also can help to protect the brain from dementia.

Reasons for Increased Dementia Risk in People with Hearing Loss

  • Some believe that hearing loss puts an undue strain on the brain, as the person is always struggling to hear properly and this contributes to dementia.
  • Some believe that a common physical problem like a virus or high blood pressure causes both hearing loss and cognitive decline.
  • Hearing loss leads to social isolation, and this can contribute to dementia. This also impacts on quality of life if someone cannot hear the phone ringing or someone knocking on the door or be able to listen to the radio or television. Also, when people cannot hear normal sounds they are more and more in a world of silence and this can sometimes cause them to hear audio hallucinations, which can push them over the edge to dementia.
  • Hearing loss may affect the structure of the brain in a negative way
  • Genes may play a role in both dementia and hearing loss.
  • People with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease anyways have difficulty in communicating even when their hearing is OK, so how much more confused can they get if they also cannot hear?

Aging is Associated with both hearing loss and dementia.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), age-related hearing loss called presbycusis is one of the most common conditions that affect seniors. In fact, one in three seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 in the United States have hearing problems. Usually, this affects both ears and many people do not realize that they have experienced hearing loss.
Aging is considered to be the main reason for hearing loss, but there may be other reasons, so anyone who experiences hearing loss should see an ear, nose and throat doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Exposure to Noise

Long-term exposure to loud noise or long-lasting sounds can damage the sensory hair cells that are necessary for proper hearing and once they are gone they cannot return. This is why the study about scientists who have succeeded to re-generate sensory hair cells is such important news because if they can perfect this process to be used on a wide scale to help people who have suffered noise related damage to their ears, this can pave the way for millions of people to regain hearing loss.

Rehab and Skilled Nursing

If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and care, make sure that they get proper hearing and vision exams before they go. You may not realize that your loved one can no longer hear or see things clearly and properly. Choose a facility where your loved one will get lots of personal attention like the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey.

Conclusion

The scientific breakthrough that sensory hairs necessary for hearing can be restored brings hope to millions and also re-gaining hearing can help to protect against dementia.

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