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.

 

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”

Bluetooth and a Birthday

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.

January 9, 2007

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.

So what’s next? Continue reading “Bluetooth and a Birthday”

Mind Reading Hearing Aids?

Connecting your hearing aids and your brain.

What’s going on between your ears when you’re losing your hearing? Emerging research is beginning to give us some revealing, and disturbing answers about brain function and hearing loss.  But it also offers some hope.

brain-scan
Credit: Anu Sharma

First the bad news:  Take a look at this picture.

On the left, is the brain of a person with normal hearing and the areas that process sound are lit up as they should be.  But on the right is the brain of a person with mild hearing loss.  As you can see there’s less activity and what there is has shifted to other areas. Continue reading “Mind Reading Hearing Aids?”

A Deaf Man in Paris

A rendezvous with one of the world’s leading geneticists who first identified the hereditary causes of hearing loss.

My French is bad, and my hearing is even worse.  Two good reasons why I didn’t understand what the waiter was asking. So I fessed up.

A cliche shot of me
A cliche shot of me

“Pardonnez-moi, je suis un peu sourd.”  (Pardon me, I am a little deaf)  Second time around I understood, mainly because he was pointing at my empty glass. He was asking if I wanted another.  “Oui”.

Of course the fine wine is a great reason to visit Paris but I had another mission.

Continue reading “A Deaf Man in Paris”

Now Playing: “Closed Captions”

Having trouble hearing dialogue in movies theatres?
Try this great option.

I went to see “Bridget Jones’s Baby” the other day (don’t ask) and it was a very frustrating experience.  Although Renée Zellweger was as adorable as ever,  I could only make out less than half of what she said.

"What the hell is she saying?"
“What the hell is she saying?”

Her faux English accent didn’t help, and a soundtrack layered with music buried a lot of the dialogue.

But the rest of the audience seemed to be laughing on cue so the issue was obviously my hearing loss.  Even with the best hearing aids many of us struggle to hear dialogue in movie theatres.  There’s no point in complaining, “the actors are mumbling” or “the soundtrack mix is so muddy”. Face it.  It’s your hearing.

But then I discovered what I can only call the cinema world’s best kept secret.  It’s called the CaptiView system and it offers discreet, easy to read captions (or subtitles if you prefer) right there in any seat in the house. Continue reading “Now Playing: “Closed Captions””