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Hearing Loss 2020

Hearing Wellness Exposition – 2nd Edition   |   by Shirley A. Molenich, MD

As you are probably aware, Sertoma and Hearing Loss Association of America have joined together to do a series of programs on hearing loss for the general public for the past two years. Our third program will be on March 28, 2020, at the Tarrant County Medical Society from 9am to 1pm, with registration beginning at 8:30am.

In my last article I mentioned three of our speakers – Jed Grisel, MD (ENT), Terri Jo Edwards, AuD, and Marylyn Koler, MS, CCCA, AuD. At this event, we will discuss how the brain and ear work together, give new information on prevention/treatment, and review modern research. We are also going to discuss tinnitus, which is a difficult disease both in terms of cause and treatment. 

There is a great deal of research going on in the area of hearing disorders. More information is becoming available about many chronic health issues that play a role in hearing loss. There is significant new knowledge about genetic causes of hearing loss with over 140 related gene mutations identified. With these gene mutilations identified, basic scientific research has discovered the specific biological changes that occur, yielding information which may open up the avenue for treating hearing loss. There also continues to be increasing development of technical assistance.

There is a clear need for audiologists and physicians to work together to care for patients by identifying hearing loss issues earlier, which can lead to better results for patients. Basically, when auditory hair cells are damaged, neurons in the brain will atrophy axons along with the synapses, leading to hearing loss. This means that if a person gets hearing aids, they will require regeneration of the axons with new synapses. There are areas of research now on the theories of cognitive function and hearing.

We will discuss opportunities to help the hearing impaired with school, education, and vocational rehabilitation of hearing impairment, and new technology. 

“There is a clear need for audiologists and physicians to work together to care for patients by identifying hearing loss issues earlier.”

This will be our first program in which tinnitus is discussed. There has been research conducted by the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the V.A. Portland Health Care System in Oregon, which was founded in 1997. Tinnitus has been one of their major areas of research. Basically, tinnitus is the experience of hearing sound (such as ringing or buzzing) without an external source. Part of the problem has been that tinnitus is a chronic condition without an existing reliable treatment. There are many protocols that have been tried, i.e. nutritional, pharmacological, surgical, deep brain transcranial electrical stimulation, sound, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, among others. The one treatment concept using sound therapy is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, which has been the gold standard in coping with but not curing tinnitus. This technology works because the brain becomes habituated to it, so the tinnitus is no longer perceived as a negative and disruptive experience.  

We want to continue to educate the public about hearing disease and to reinforce new ideas and treatment options that are coming soon. We appreciate the help of the Tarrant County Medical Society in this endeavor. 

Reviewing Tinnitus Research as an Educator, Veteran and Parent.
Oman Rodriguez – Hearing Health Foundation. Fall 2019, pp.26-28.
Tackling Tinnitus
James A. Henry, Ph.D – Hearing Health Foundation. Fall 2018, pp. 10-12.

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