Already Gone


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 38-42. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.20062015.38

Though undetectable with testing, hearing decline begins when we’re in our 40s and 50s. What causes this change, and how can clinicians advise clients who notice the difference and struggle with it in everyday listening situations?

Janet Koehnke, PhD, CCC-A; Jennifer Lister, PhD, CCC-A; Ilse Wambacq, PhD

Forty-two-year-old Kelly comes to see you because she is having trouble understanding her friends in social situations, like outings to restaurants or clubs. She knows her hearing is normal and says she seems to have this problem only in situations where there are multiple conversations, background noise or music. Kelly is concerned because she’s now avoiding social events with challenging listening environments.

Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for us, as audiologists, to see people in their 40s and 50s who complain of difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. Yet when we conduct a complete audiometric evaluation on these clients, we often find normal pure-tone and speech thresholds and excellent word recognition in quiet. So what is the source of these clients’ hearing challenges?

A growing number of studies suggest that while clients’ hearing may be normal, their complex auditory processing at a central level is not what it was when they were in their 20s and 30s (see sources below). Some of the explanations for these declines include impaired temporal processing and binaural/spatial processing, which are thought to be mediated, at least in part, at the level of the auditory brainstem. In addition, there is clear evidence for age-related changes in cognitive processing in middle-aged people.

How do these changes affect the ability to understand speech in degraded listening conditions, locate sound sources, and, in general, communicate in everyday listening situations? Not surprisingly, research suggests there is not a simple answer to this question (see sources below). Nonetheless, certain auditory-processing challenges likely contribute to these hearing difficulties. Though typically not a debilitating decline, it is one audiologists and speech-language pathologists need to watch for in middle-aged clients, so that they can offer support, as needed.

See full article here.

Protecting Our Protectors


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 22-24. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20062015.22
An audiologist is on a mission to create the ideal hearing protection for firefighters—and to convince them to use it.

Shelley D. Hutchins

Name: Kathleen A. Romero, AuD, CCC-A

Title: Owner, Audiology Associates

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico


Sirens scream as the truck roars down the road. Inside a burning building, a woman’s cries are barely audible in the thundering fire.

All of these sounds are common in the lives of firefighters. They have to discern those muffled cries and other subtler sounds like creaks from the shifting building or a fire’s change in intensity, while also subjecting their ears to blaring sirens and other loud and potentially damaging sounds.

That’s why it’s so important to protect their ability to hear, says audiologist Kathleen Romero, who’s made this issue a focus of her work in her Albuquerque-based private audiology practice. She launched her office a few years ago in the usual way—drumming up patients through word-of-mouth. Her surprising specialty developed through one of those word-of-mouth patients.

Even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high hearing loss.

Her then-receptionist, now partner, is married to a firefighter who referred several of his buddies. Romero quickly learned that even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high rates of hearing loss.

“I immediately wondered why they weren’t wearing their hearing protection,” Romero says. “They all receive disposable foam ear plugs, which work if they’re actually used, and used correctly, but patients kept telling me they didn’t wear them.”

See full article here.

Brain Cells May Press ‘Pause’ When Hearing


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.20062015.16

Brain cells may be able to “wait” to determine what we hear, according to new research on gerbils at the Laboratory for Auditory Neurophysiology in Leuven, Belgium.

Human ears locate sounds in space by accounting for differences in intensity and timing between signals that reach our two ears. Cells in the brainstem, which receive electrical pulses from the auditory nerve when the cochlea hears sound, are “hyper-specialized” to respond to certain time differences, according to the lab’s Philip X. Joris, who worked with lead author Tom P. Franken on the study, published in Nature Neuroscience.

“For example, one cell may respond to sounds right in front of us, which reach both ears at the same time, while another cell may respond to sounds to our side, which reach the ears with a time difference of half a millisecond,” Joris says. “Depending on which cell is active, we know where the sound source is in space. But how cells compute this time difference has been a matter of conjecture because it is exceedingly difficult to study these cells in the brainstem.”

Click here for full article.

Military-Specific Hearing Test Could Better Determine Combat Readiness


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20062015.14

For soldiers on the battlefield, the words “Medic!” and “Hold fire!” and references to location are among their top hearing priorities, according to new research in Noise and Health.

The study, led by Hannah Semeraro of the United Kingdom’s University of Southampton, is a step in the creation of a new type of hearing test that gauges a soldier’s ability to perform effectively in combat situations. The researchers asked 79 British military personnel to rank 17 sounds and commands (identified in a previous study) based on importance, regularity and the number of soldiers who hear them.

More than 4,000 British troops had hearing loss as of November 2013, according to the Ministry of Defence. In the United States, hearing health is also a large military issue, with the Department of Veterans Affairs citing hearing loss and tinnitus as two of the most common injuries among troops.

The study’s results identify nine mission-critical auditory tasks, including accurately hearing commands in a casualty situation, grid references, directions, fire-control orders, and “stop” commands and briefings; locating firing points; and identifying the type of weapon being fired.

See full article here.

Reducing the Risk of Hearing Disorders Among Musicians


DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-184  June 2015

Musicians and others involved in the music industry are at risk of developing permanent hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other hearing disorders from exposure to loud sounds. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examines the risks associated with music exposure and provides recommendations to protect their hearing.

See entire article here.

Listen Up! Noises Can Damage Your Hearing


Sounds surround us. We enjoy many of them—like music, birdsong, and conversations with friends. But loud or long-lasting noises—from motors, power tools, and even headphones—can permanently damage your hearing. Take steps to protect your ears from harmful noises.

Loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. An estimated 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 already have irreversible hearing loss caused by loud sounds. And up to 16% of teens have hearing loss that may have been caused by loud noise.

“Noise damage can begin at any age, and it tends to accumulate over time. That’s why avoiding excess noise is so critical,” says Dr. Gordon Hughes, a clinical trials director and ear, nose, and throat specialist at NIH. “Hearing loss caused by noise is completely preventable.”

See the rest of the story here.


A billion at risk for hearing loss from exposure to loud music


Sandee LaMotte, special to CNN
Updated 12:20 PM ET, Fri March 6, 2015
(CNN)—”Hey dude — can you turn your music down?”

If anyone says this to you while you’re wearing your earbuds, take note: You are probably endangering your hearing.

More than one billion teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing, according to WHO (that’s the World Health Organization, not the rock band).

It’s not just old folks who suffer hearing loss. Just by listening to music at what you probably think is a normal level, or hanging out in loud bars, nightclubs and music and sporting events, you can permanently damage your hearing.

By analyzing listening habits of 12- to 35-year-olds in wealthier countries around the world, WHO found nearly 50% of those studied listen to unsafe sound levels on personal audio devices and about 40% are exposed to damaging levels of music and noise at entertainment venues.

It doesn’t take much time to damage your hearing at a sports bar or nightclub. According to the WHO, “exposure to noise levels of 100 dB, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes.”

See entire article here.

Keck Medicine of USC-led study finds genetic predisposition for noise-induced hearing loss


Friday, April 17, 2015

Rick Friedman, professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and senior author of the study.

By Alison Trinidad

In a new genome-wide association study, an international team led by Keck Medicine of USC neuroscientists has found evidence that some people may be more genetically susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others.

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. At especially high risk are troops in the Armed Forces. In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported hearing loss as one of the most common disabilities among veterans receiving disability compensation.

Those at higher genetic risk for hearing loss may decide to take additional precautionary measures to protect their hearing prior to hazardous noise exposure, study authors say.

See full article here.

Saints Offense Wearing Custom-Made Earplugs to Battle Seattle’s 12th Man After Tip From Brett Favre


Photos:, article:

Brett Favre is not one to hold grudges. Although Favre was among the quarterbacks who was targeted during the Saints’ bounty scandal, the retired signal caller didn’t make a big deal out of it then, and he’s not making a big deal out of it now, lending a hand to Sean Payton and Co. before their Monday night matchup against Seattle on 12/2. The Saints head coach turned to Favre to get some advice on how to deal with the deafening crowd noise at CenturyLink Field, remembering that the former Green Bay & Vikings quarterback wore earplugs to combat the crowd at the Superdome during the 2009 NFC Championship game in New Orleans. “Favre shared with Payton that the Vikings had designer noise-reduction earplugs custom-made for that game, and Favre said it really helped,” ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported. “So, Payton ordered up 20 of those earplugs.” Salters said that the offensive players were fitted on Tuesday, and they had a couple of practice days to get accustomed to the special earplugs that block out fan noise while still allowing calls at the line of scrimmage to be heard.

Head Injury Uncovers Teen’s Musical Gift



A tone-deaf teenager who spent weeks in hospital with concussion injuries has since discovered the ability to play 13 musical instruments.

Lachlan Connors, 19, from Denver, tried to learn to play the piano before his injuries, but found he had no aptitude for music.

“He really had no talent,” his mother Elsie Hamilton told CBS4.

“I would say: ‘Can’t you hear what’s next?’ (while Lachlan played) something like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and he said: ‘No’.”

Lachlan was a keen sportsman. He loved to play lacrosse, and hoped to play professionally one day.

However, a series of concussion injuries on the field led to seizures and eventually hospital.

“I fell backwards and hit the back of my head on the ground. I remember getting up and feeling really dazed. I didn’t really understand something bad had happened,” Lachlan said.

See full article here.