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New research has given us better insight into how genes relate to hearing loss, as well as new models for how humans interpret sound. Get the latest scoop in this week’s Audicus blog! New developments in hearing science news include:

Hearing Loss, Genetics and the Middle Ear

The gene AM2L1 may be responsible for ear infections and subsequent hearing loss in certain families. One study in the Philippines led by Dr. Regie Lyn P. Santos-Cortez of Baylor University found that 80% of people that carry a certain variant of the AM2L1 gene have also experienced otitis media, a type of middle ear infection.

Santos-Cortez was able to detect this gene variant by using next-generation sequencing, a laboratory technique that is becoming increasingly popular in the field of biology. Further research into the AM2L1 gene and the ways in which it functions can lead to the development of better hearing loss medication.

Fish, Treadmills and Hearing Loss

Dr. James Liao, a marine biologist from the University of Florida in St. Augustine, is currently studying how the sensory systems of zebrafish and trout allow them to travel through their aquatic environments. Part of Liao’s study includes placing fish in a flow tank, which is essentially a treadmill designed for fish.

A flow tank contains a high-speed video camera and specialized laser, allowing scientists to visualize water currents as these currents interact with the fish. Fish can navigate these currents despite the fact that water normally changes in speed and direction. Trout and zebrafish can maneuver in watery environments because they have a lateral line system, a sensory network that includes hair cells nearly identical to those found in human ears.

Liao hopes to utilize the lateral line system of fish in a process called biomimetic design, where technology is modeled after biological structures in nature. Understanding how hair cells in zebrafish allow them to stay oriented in their environment may also provide a clearer picture of how human hair cells perceive sound in an environment of constantly changing air currents. Studies into the mechanics of lateral line systems can ultimately be used to create medical applications for people with hearing loss.

Hearing Aid Costs and the Average American

Last month a U.S. Supreme Court ruling supported government assistance under the Affordable Care Act. This includes the circulation of hearing aids for individuals with hearing loss. However, those who do not qualify for hearing aid assistance under the act may not be able to purchase several hearing aid brands due to the normal expenses of hearing aids.

Medicare is not liable for costs related to hearing aids, hearing exams or hearing aid fittings, meaning a large body of people with hearing loss may be left unaided. Support from federal agencies is also limited, although the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does provide hearing aids to veterans.

Hearing aids can typically range from $1000 to $3500, and this estimate may double if a person needs devices for both ears. Luckily, Audicus has established a Hearing Aid Payment Plan, an affordable payment alternative that allows you to pay in installments. Audicus has partnered with Affirm to offer a 3, 6 or 12 month plan coupled with a 45-day trial period and money-back guarantee.

By: Aaron Rodriques