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”.
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.
“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”
I generally don’t recommend online hearing tests since they can’t replace a proper test by a qualified audiologist. But this one is simple to do, and it offers a rough idea of the state of your hearing. It was posted by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance board.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke
There is no good time to suffer from hearing loss but there’s no better time than now for being able to cope and compensate. The technology of today’s hearing aids truly does seem like magic.
If you want proof put on a pair of Starkey‘s Halo2s. First, their bluetooth connectivity is remarkable. That should come as no surprise.
Back in 2005 Starkey introduced ELI, the world’s first bluetooth enabled hearing aid. (That was two years before the iPhone was unveiled.) So they have a lot of experience to build on.
As you can see on the left, ELI was an ungainly looking device. Note the dangling black cube which was the bluetooth radio.
Their latest model the Halo2 is, by comparison, light and sleek. Thanks to 12 years of miniaturization, the bluetooth radios are tucked inside out of sight along with a set of powerful microprocessor chips. It’s a smart hearing aid designed for smart phones.
Smartphone apps have changed the way we cope with hearing loss. What’s next?
This is an auspicious day for those of us with hearing loss. Steve Jobs likely wasn’t thinking much about hearing aids when he stood on stage ten years ago and held up that very first iPhone.
As he touted its revolutionary features he made a passing reference to its bluetooth capability. At the time bluetooth was used primarily to connect mobile phones with car systems and earpieces.
A decade, and one billion iPhones later, bluetooth now puts the power to connect, control and adjust hearing aids in the palm of your hand. Every major hearing aid maker now offers bluetooth apps for both iPhones and Android devices.