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Current Events in Hearing Health: Sonification

Have you ever heard about sonification or wondered how a virus could affect your ears? Get the latest scoop on hearing loss news! So far 2015 has provided us with fascinating stories concerning hearing loss and hearing health. New updates include:

Hard Time for Those With Hearing Loss

In recent news one 42-year old Australian man was found using his hearing aid battery to help create illicit tattoos while in prison. Suspicions ran high when the inmate asked for 3 separate repairs of his hearing device during a four-month period, as well as 14 replacement batteries. It didn’t help that his hearing aid device was covered in a black coating that could be little other than tattoo ink.

At lease 3 percent of Australian prison inmates get illegal tattoos, using common household items like mobile phone chargers and CD player motors to power their tattoo guns. Some researchers argue that tattooing should be allowed and regulated in prison, rightfully so; illicit tattooing can be a risky activity that results in the spread of potentially harmful diseases. In the long run, it makes more sense to use your hearing aid battery for its intended purpose–your tattoo gun may be sharper, but your hearing will be sharper.

Can You Hear Cancer?

Ears are faster at processing information than the eyes are. By hearing, we can perceive information in a few thousandths of a second, whereas it would take one fiftieth of a second to pick up a noticeable change in some kind of stimuli:

Researchers at the Birmingham City University in England are currently working on a program that translates visual data into auditory data, a technique known as sonification. As new-wave as it sounds, sonification is actually an old technique that was practiced in 1908. A device called Geiger counter was created that could transmit information in the form of clicking when stimulated by charged atoms.

Sonification has significant potential for use in cancer treatment, as it takes a relatively long amount of time to analyze cancerous tumors by using visual profiles alone. Through the process of sonification researchers have actually created sound profiles for healthy and cancerous cells! Cells that are healthy create a noise that differs from the noise of cancerous cells. You’ll have to hear it to believe it.

HIV and Hearing Loss

For individuals infected with HIV, hearing loss may be one of the downsides associated with this very serious condition. In a study from the University of Yaounde I in Central Africa, researchers found that 27.2% of people with HIV had sustained hearing loss, compared to only 5.6% in HIV-negative patients. The two groups consisted of 90 individuals with HIV and 90 individuals that did not have the virus: HIV-positive patients were also more likely to experience dizziness and tinnitus. Interestingly enough, the antiretroviral drugs normally prescribed to individuals with the disease seemingly had no negative impact on hearing loss. Further research is needed to confirm the cause of this hearing discrepancy between HIV-negative and HIV-positive individuals.

By: Aaron Rodriques

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