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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Does Research = Hope for the Hard of Hearing?

When my audiologist first told me about my hearing loss, she tried to reassure me by saying there was lots of research being done on my type of hearing loss. Today I read on Science Daily "How Human Ear Translates Vibrations Into Sounds: Discovery Of Ion Channel Turns Ear On Its Head" and wondered what impact this new information might have. Anyone who wears hearing aids knows they help but they definitely don't restore normal hearing.

Here's a few quotes from the article:

"Anthony Ricci, PhD, associate professor of otolaryngology, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin and the Pellegrin Hospital in France found that the ion channels responsible for hearing aren't located where scientists previously thought. The discovery turns old theories upside down, and it could have major implications for the prevention and treatment of hearing loss."

"Ricci explained, "Location is important, because our entire theory of how sound activates these channels depends on it. Now we have to re-evaluate the model that we've been showing in textbooks for the last 30 years."

Don't ask me what an ion channel is because I don't know. The pictures I found on Google didn't make it any clearer to me, either. I just have to trust the scientists on this. Apparently these researchers worked with hair cells from rats rather than the hair cells of bullfrogs which had been used in prior experiments. From that statement alone I think the scientists still have a lot to learn about human hearing.

What do you think? Are you hoping for a scientific breakthrough? To keep up-to-date with the latest research on hearing loss, check out the Science Daily newsfeed in my blog sidebar.


ms toast burner said...

I am usually very curious about things that I don't understand but my head is firmly entrenched in the sand when it comes to the science of hearing and hearing loss.

I have recently noticed that I have a 'just don't wanna know' mindset. I suspect this is just an aspect of denial. Or fear of learning something that will just depress or scare me.

I don't like feeling that way as it's not really 'me' but there I am, right now. That said, I do hope for breakthroughs in scientific knowledge.

I am however, very curious about the human experience of hearing and hearing loss... that's more my bag.

MM said...

I'm not a religious person, but I'd pray for a cure ! I am realistic to know I am unlikley to benefit now. I think it is important deaf and all with hearing loss support research on all fronts. For everyone more than content being deaf, there are thousands and thousands who aren't, and suffering, so it is for them we support that research, it's not a case of supporting hearing oppression at all.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

That's interesting, ms. toast burner. I find myself curious to know if my experience of hearing loss is "normal" or unique to me. I enjoy reading about others' experiences on their blogs to learn more and prepare myself better for coping with hearing loss in a hearing world.

I was surprised by this article to realize there is still much for the scientists to learn.

I really don't know what to hope for as my hearing loss seems like part of me now. Perhaps my hope is that I could prevent my hearing loss from getting worse than it is.
Is that too much to want?

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Excellent point, MM. Thanks!

Sam said...

Ha!! there must be something about being a librarian and deaf - I am a librarian too!!! hee hee - there has got to be something in the blood there!! ;-)

Mog said...

I'm always hoping for a breakthrough and am optimistic that there will be one. So many things from science fiction become science fact. We already benefit from fancy hearing aids.
I was talking to someone last week who can hear extremely well with her new aids, and doesn't need to lipread when she has them in. I was amazed. When I was first given aids they were basic, analogue, one size fits all aids that made sound sound awful. As my hearing has worsened I have unfortunately been just out of the reach of the latest technology which means it's been some years since I have been able to hear without distortion or discomfort. This is one of the reasons why I am keen to have a CI, the prospect of listening to deformed sound isn't a new concept to me. That said I wouldn't want to be bilateral, I want to save up one ear for those breakthroughs, whether it's through stem cell research, or more detail on ion channels, or better understanding of how the brain hears.
It will happen, things will get better.
One reason that it will happen of is that hearing loss is happening to more people, and to younger people. All those MP3 players and concerts have damaged a generations ears. Angry young men and women make things happen.Generation X and baby boomers are now pensioners and they aren't the sit back and suffer stoically type.
Things will get better.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Sam,
Welcome to my blog! Since writing my blog, I have "met" several librarians with hearing loss. For me, I think the relatively quiet environment of the library kept my hearing loss hidden from me. Do you have a public service position where you have to communicate with others constantly? I am so grateful for my technical services position which allows me to work alone much of my time. I will check out your blog soon.
All the best,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Mog,
I appreciate your optimistic outlook!

Amy Kay said...

Hi Sarah!
I'm all about research! I've always been open to any and all research that won't hurt or worsten my ears. Anything to help future genarations or myself, bring it on! After all I have Cam to think about too.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

You make a good point, AmyKay. Research may come too late for some of us but it may make a difference for our children's generation.

kim said...

I've been HH long enough to be simultaneously amazed by how little we know and how fast technology has progressed in spite of it. I've told this story many times. When I got my first analog hearing aids, the CI was experimental and not especially helpful for speech understanding. Digital hearing aids were a dream. They was a 'digital' model at a research institution somewhere, but it was as big as a room. A few years later, the microchip was invented and that changed everything. Looking at the bigger picture, what we have in choices today is not only because of research on hearing loss, but an integration of many new technologies developed for other products. I remain optimistic and always excited to hear about new breakthroughs.

jelly said...

I feel pretty much the same as most of the commenters here.
Research won't make my ears any worse than they already are.

I have Usher's Syndrome III, which is the cause of my deafness and visual problems. I'd like to see a cure for that in my lifetime.

But I say, if scientists want to experiment and find a cure for deafness, why not? It is rather interesting how each of us have different levels of hearing loss and how our life experiences with it differ.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

I was very encouraged to read the others, and your comments about positive strides being made through research Sarah. I am a religious person and I will pray that the amazing advancements will continue and will benefit you, and these others, in this lifetime. I'm a strong proponent of research because of a proven track record of improvements, such as Kim stated in her comments. You're an awesome example of a positive person to those who know you Sarah (and I suspect to those who may only know you on Speak Up Librarian.

Cheryl said...

Hi Sarah,
I continue to do this wrong each time I try to post something. Hopefully I'll get it right now. Cheryl

Cheryl said...

Of course I neglected to mention that comments posted by Anonymous were mine. Have a great day!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you Kim and Jelly for your remarks. Good points both of you!

Thank you Cheryl for your prayers and kind words. You touched my heart.

Steve said...

I'm not really much bothered about a cure for my hearing loss. I've accepted my situation and I don't think my life would be any different today if I had full functioning hearing. I'd say, "eh?" a hell of a lot less but that'd be it.

But for all the people suffering because of their hearing loss I'd love to see a science breakthrough that'd make things easier for them. Thing is though: there's a lot of people out there who can't afford to buy aids, would they be able to afford surgery? Probably not. So it'd only be helping the people that are currently being helped by hearing aids.

Not that I'm knocking the science progress, of course.

A question: would anyone here go through surgery to restore their hearing even if there was a chance that it could go the other way and leave you profoundly deaf?

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Good comment, Steve. I think I am going to put your comment in a post so that more people will see it and reply.