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Current Events: Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids

This week in Audicus blogs, find out about the latest news when it comes to topics including hearing health and hearing culture. Current updates regarding hearing aids and hearing loss include:

Lip-Reading Hearing Aids

Researchers at the University of Stirling are currently developing a hearing aid with lip-reading technology. This hearing aid is meant to be a useful application in settings where it may be too loud to hear, allowing the user to either rely on sound or visual cues.

Professor Amir Hussein and his team developed the hearing aid to be equipped with a camera and software that can actually process information based on visual cues.

A similar device that relies on visual cues is the Visually Guided Hearing Aid, a device created by Professor Gerald Kidd and fellow researchers in 2012 at Sargent College, Boston University.  The Visually Guided Hearing Aid, or VGHA, uses eye movement to amplify certain objects or locations that the user is focusing on. This critical aspect of the VGHA makes it an excellent tool for filtering out background noise.

Hearing Loss and Diet

Have you ever been told that what you eat can affect how well you hear? Well, that statement may hold some truth! A new study from the University of Florida has found that individuals with a healthier diet were less likely to experience hearing loss.

Dr. Christopher Spankovich, the leader of the project, gave a series of questionnaires to participants that corresponded to a Healthy Eating Index.

Of the participants examined, 2,366 were also given a four-part hearing test. Participants with a higher Healthy Eating Index had lowered rates of hearing loss. However, correlation does not equal causation: the lowered incidence of hearing loss among healthy eaters doesn’t necessarily mean that diet is to blame for hearing loss.

Although concrete evidence hasn’t been provided linking diet to hearing loss, there are related conditions that do seem to imply that poor eating will indirectly influence your hearing. For example, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that increasing BMI (Body Mass Index) corresponded with an increased incidence of hearing loss.

In a study of 80,696 participants, it was found that women with a BMI of 25 or less were at the lowest risk of hearing loss, whereas women with a BMI greater than or equal to 25 were at a higher risk. Women with a BMI that was greater than or equal to 40 were at the highest risk for experiencing hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Genes

 Scientists from the University of Miami were able to identify a genetic mutation that causes deafness in humans. More specifically, a mutation in a gene called DCDC2 likely causes deafness by affecting the formation of hair cells necessary for proper hearing. This new discovery can better help scientists to develop specific methods for preventing or even curing certain forms of deafness.

In addition to factors such as obesity, exposure to loud noise and ototoxic drugs, hereditary deafness is another common culprit for hearing loss. In fact, it is common for hearing loss to run in families because they share harmful genetic mutations.

By: Aaron Rodriques

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