Hearing with Your Tongue

Putting words into your mouth, literally.

Courtesy: Colorado State University

Odd but intriguing research is underway at Colorado State University. Engineers are developing a mouth piece that can transmit the sensation of sounds to the tongue.

As anyone who has savoured a fine meal knows, the tongue is rich with sensory nerve cells.  What if those cells could also be used transmit sound, or at least an interpretation of sound, to the brain bypassing the ears completely?

That’s concept the CSU researchers are working on and they produced this video to show how it might work.

Before There Was Radar There Were Great Big Hearing Aids

A German observation post, 1917.  The ear horns were used to detect the sound of incoming enemy aircraft and to help spot them, the goggles acted like binoculars.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led commemorative services this week to mark the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War 1.

Vimy Ridge has come to symbolize Canada’s coming of age.  For the first time Canadians from all across the country fought together under Canadian command.  Their decisive victory over the Germans cost 3,598 Canadian lives.

In honour of the occasion here’s something a little different.  The following pictures depict a very odd type of hearing aid that first appeared on the battlefields of World War 1.

This was a war when fighter planes and bombers made their debut.  It was also a time before the invention of radar so the best way to detect incoming enemy aircraft was to listen for the sound of their engines.

Of course, the further away you could hear them the better you could prepare so these early warning “acoustic listening devices” were developed.  Here are some weird and wonderful examples:

This Czech device was tested by the Dutch military.  They concluded it had “fundamental deficiencies”.

 

 

 

This Dutch device called “The Personal Parabola” is one of my favourites. Although this soldier apparently doesn’t seem too thrilled with it.
This huge double trumpet system was deployed in 1921 at Bolling Field, an airbase in Washington DC.
These Japanese detectors were nicknamed “War Tubas” and are seen here being inspected by Emperor Hirohito in 1935.

The “acoustic detection” era ended with the development of radar in WW2.

Iron and Hearing Loss

An important new study reveals a tantalizing new clue about hearing loss.

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) has been linked to hearing loss in a major study conducted by researchers at Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

They studied over 300,000 people, ranging from the young to the elderly. Among the findings, the risk of sensorineural hearing loss was 82% higher among those with low iron levels in their blood.

Your bone marrow needs iron to produce hemoglobin for the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.  Iron deficiency can cause symptoms ranging from fatigue to muscle weakness and maybe, just maybe, play a role in hearing loss.

But the study’s lead author, Kathleen P. Schieffer, emphasizes that, “Our study does not say that iron deficiency causes hearing loss, but only that there is a link between the two.”

She also does not recommend that anyone take iron supplements without first consulting a doctor.

The reason for the link is unknown but one theory is gaining ground.  We know from animal studies that iron deficiency reduces the flow of hemoglobin to the cochlea and that the auditory nerve cells need a lot of oxygen.

The report concludes that “further research is needed to better understand the potential links between IDA and hearing loss and whether screening and treatment of IDA in adults could have clinical implications in patients with hearing loss”.

Stanford University & Hope for a Hearing Loss Cure

“In the last five years the pharmaceutical industry has woken up and there are now about 30 biotech companies right now focused on finding a cure for some forms of hearing loss.” – Prof. Stefan Heller

It may well be the most comprehensive and ambitious research program of its kind and the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss (SICHL) mission statement reflects that:

“The goal of the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss is to devise treatments that repair the damaged ear and restore lost hearing, quiet tinnitus, and improve balance.”

How far have they come toward achieving that goal? Continue reading “Stanford University & Hope for a Hearing Loss Cure”

FDA Fast Tracks Review of AM-111

More hope on the horizon for those of us suffering from sensorineural hearing loss.  Auris, a Swiss biopharmaceutical company, is developing a promising drug called AM-111.

It’s now in clinical trials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just approved it for a “Fast Track” designation.  That means it will now undergo a speeded up review process.

I will be following this development closely.  More reports to come. Meanwhile, here’s the company’s press release:

Continue reading “FDA Fast Tracks Review of AM-111”

A Breakthrough in Curing Hearing Loss?

Another promising development in research into restoring hearing.

The key to restoring lost hearing is finding a way to re-grow hair cells in the cochlea.  We’re born with about 30,000 of these tiny sound detectors and because of exposure to noise, age and some types of antibiotics they die off.

The good news: researchers around the world are working to develop techniques to regenerate hairs cells.  Now comes word that a team at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear have discovered a combination of drugs that does just that.  At least it works in mice.

The MIT press release and another from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have some of the details about the research that was published in the scientific journal The Cell Reports.

For more on the search for a cure check out my posts on CFG166, research at Sunnybrook in Toronto and the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

 

Great Video Explains Hearing Loss

Do you want to know why you are losing your hearing?   This short video explains clearly and simply what is happens to your auditory system as age, noise and disease take their toll.  Highly recommended.

A couple of notes:  It was produced by Signia (formerly Siemans), a hearing aid maker.  And I have turned on the closed captions.

CGF166 – The Latest News

“There have been a couple patients with hearing improvement, so we are definitely encouraged.” – Dr. Lawrence Lustig

There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, the type that most of us with aging ears suffer from.  At least not yet.  But as I’ve written about in earlier posts, a pioneering treatment may be on the way.  It’s called CGF166.  It’s the only gene therapy for hearing loss now undergoing human trials in the U.S. and early reports are promising.  Here’s a progress report. Continue reading “CGF166 – The Latest News”