Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What does hearing loss "sound" like? An App that shows you...

Have you ever wondered what hearing loss "sounds" like? Red Deluxe has created an App to help you find out. Play It Down is an app that accesses your music files and lets you listen to a song the way someone with varying degrees of hearing loss would hear it. This app can even estimate how old your ears are by administering a type of hearing screen. 

Play It Down is free and can be found by clicking here.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

An App to Help You Hear in Noise

Do you have difficulty understanding conversations in noisy environments like restaurants? If so, research has shown that "brain training" can improve your ability to hear in noise. Starkey Laboratories has created an App to help you sharpen your ability to follow conversations in difficult listening environments. HearCoach is a free App that features multiple listening "games" that introduce varying degrees of background noise. As your listening ability improves, HearCoach allows you to advance to more challenging listening environments. The aim of the App is to improve your ability to clearly distinguish speech in a variety of challenging environments.
To read more about HearCoach or to download it, click here.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

How old are your ears?

Our hearing usually changes as we age. A simple test from AsapSCIENCE will help you determine if your hearing within the normal range for your age.
Click here to take the test! 
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Loud Noise Exposure Causes Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

Exposure to noise levels greater than 110 dBs has been shown to cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). However, the damage caused by this level of noise exposure can oftentimes be partially (or completely) reversed. Research led by Dr. Martine Hamann of the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Leicester has shown both how noise exposure causes hearing loss and tinnitus as well as how the body can repair itself. 

A ScienceBlog article detailing the research describes how loud noise exposure damages hearing: 

Nerve cells that carry electrical signals from the ears to the brain have a coating called the myelin sheath, which helps the electrical signals travel along the cell. Exposure to loud noises – i.e. noise over 110 decibels – can strip the cells of this coating, disrupting the electrical signals. This means the nerves can no longer efficiently transmit information from the ears to the brain. However, the coating surrounding the nerve cells can reform, letting the cells function again as normal. This means hearing loss can be temporary, and full hearing can return.
In response to the research findings, Dr. Hamann notes:
We now understand why hearing loss can be reversible in certain cases. We showed that the sheath around the auditory nerve is lost in about half of the cells we looked at, a bit like stripping the electrical cable linking an amplifier to the loudspeaker. The effect is reversible and after three months, hearing has recovered and so has the sheath around the auditory nerve.
Researchers hope this information can be used to find potential cures to noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus.

For more information on this research and the source of this blog post, click here.

Image provided courtesy of fotographic1980

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Alarming Rise of Tinnitus in Teenagers

According to a study conducted at Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium, one in five high                                 school students have permanent ringing in the ears. Three in four students reported temporary episodes of tinnitus. The implications of these findings are important. Tinnitus is typically caused by repeated exposure to loud noise. It is no coincidence then that nearly 90% of people with tinnitus also have a hearing loss. Therefore, the sources of repeated loud noise exposure for teenagers (such as personal listening devices) must be identified. Dr. Roland Eavey, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, believes this information can be used to help teenagers understand the potential risks of hearing loss and personal listening devices. He states: "Hearing loss from noise used to be from external sources such as loud industry and the military... Nowadays the loud volume is from self-inflicted sources such as personal listening devices... Perhaps [the presence tinnitus] might be like warning smokers to heed the cough before lung cancer is found..."

The individual must also be educated on safe listening volumes and sound protection. Over-the-ear headphones usually block out surrounding noises better than ear buds and allow the individual to listen to music at lower volumes. Also, the volume level of most personal listening devices can be limited to a safe listening level. Limiting the volume to 80% of it's maximum level is generally a good guideline. An individual should be safe listening to volumes of 85-90 dBs for a period of 90-120 minutes per day.

For more information on this research and the source of this blog post, click here.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A "Bionic" Ear?

Researchers at Princeton University have created a fully-functional "bionic" ear. Using a 3D printer, scientists have created an ear that hears radio frequencies a million times higher than the human ear. Michael McAlpine, lead researcher on the project, had this to say about its purpose:   
The idea of this was: can you take a normal, healthy, average human and give them superpower that they wouldn't normally have?
To create the ear, McAlpine and team used a 3D printer to print the cells and combine them with a small coil antenna. The materials were then placed in a petri dish where the cells cultured for 10 weeks. The end result: a "bionic" ear with embedded electronics. To see how the ear was created or for more information, read this article. 

Image provided courtesy of Victor Habbick of

Friday, August 2, 2013

Apps That Help With Tinnitus

Apps for tinnitus
Developers have created multiple Apps to help with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Here are a few examples:
The Tinnitus Balance App enables the user to select sounds from a mobile device's music library. It also contains a list of default sounds divided into three categories: soothing, background, and interesting. The user can rate how well each sound provides relief or distraction from the noises generated by tinnitus and share this information with the audiologist or treating physician. The App also contains a timer that can be used when the individual is about to fall asleep.
For more information on Phonak's Tinnitus Balance App, click here.
This App was designed by Neonix to help people match the tonal frequency of their tinnitus. As long as the sound of the tinnitus is tonal in nature, Tinnitus Measurer can match the frequency level and help the individual aid the audiologist in creating a treatment protocol. This App is free of charge and can be found here.
Tinnitus Masker provides a variety of sounds to help the individual "mask" (drown out) the noises generated by tinnitus. Sounds include white noise, pink noise, crickets at night, waves on the beach, and more. It costs $5.99 and is located here.
This App employs a unique strategy to change the perceived level of tinnitus by "mixing" the noises it generates with actual sounds of nature and music. With continued use, the goal of this treatment approach is to gradually diminish the individual's awareness of the noises generated by their particular type of tinnitus. Tinnitus Help costs $15.99 and can be found here.
Relax Melodies OP features 102 different sounds ranging from white noise to nature sounds. It is often used to facilitate relaxation, meditation, and sleep. This app costs $2.99 and can be found here.

What causes tinnitus?

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