Jan 2017 Scoop/co.nz and Pindrop Foundation

For the first time in New Zealand, internationally renowned doctor and researcher in the field of healthy ageing and hearing loss, Frank Lin, M.D, PhD., is presenting the findings of his research at the 2017 Pindrop Foundation Adult Cochlear Implant Forum in March at the University of Auckland, Tamaki Campus.  Just like other things in our bodies that deteriorate with age, hearing is no different. The World Health Organisation estimates that 33% of adults over 65 have a disabling hearing loss. It’s a huge health issue in New Zealand, it’s a safety issue and it’s a quality of life issue that urgently needs addressing. As Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Geriatric Medicine, Mental Health and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Frank Lin has a special interest in studying the interface between hearing loss and ageing.

He will be discussing the impact of hearing loss on the cognitive and physical functioning of older adults and the role of hearing therapies in mitigating these effects. "My clinical practice is dedicated to the medical and surgical management of hearing conditions, and I study research questions that lie at the interface of hearing loss, ageing, and public health. I investigate these ideas in analysis of large epidemiological data sets. I’m looking forward to discussing those findings with the cochlear implant community in New Zealand,” says Lin. He and other speakers will share their expertise and experience of cochlear implants as a treatment intervention for severe hearing loss and the impact of hearing loss on health in adults.

Lee Schoushkoff, CEO of the Pindrop Foundation says, “We are honoured to host Dr Frank Lin, Anthony Bishop, Dr David Welch and other inspiring leaders in the field of cochlear implants and hearing health at the 2017 forum. Bringing together experts and their collective wisdom from the cochlear implant community challenges us all to create a brighter hearing future for New Zealanders affected by severe hearing loss.”

 

March 2017 Mount Olive Chronicle

In the past, Amanda Richard could hear the garbage truck passing by her Flanders home but she couldn’t hear the birds singing outside. While in high school, the young girl, known to friends and family as “Mandy,” found it was getting harder to hear some words or follow conversations with friends. She was diagnosed with progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. She could hear most low frequency sounds with lower pitches, like trucks and drums. But she couldn’t discern high frequency sounds like whistling, bells and the ding of a microwave oven. Richard tried hearing aids but they did not offer much help because the sound-amplifying device could not sufficiently raise high-frequency sounds to improve understanding of speech, especially when there is any kind of background noise.

Richard said she reached her bottom when she was 21, on a day in 2005 when she was soon to graduate from the College of New Jersey with a degree in graphic design. She was in a parking lot with her mother, sobbing and losing hope of ever hearing the way most people can. 

Amanda RichardRichard has since received a hybrid cochlear implant. She still has a way to go but the implant has opened a new world of sounds to Richard, now 33. Needless to say, deciding to have a cochlear implant was a very hard decision. The implant is surgery and it is permanent with all the risks that accompany any surgery, including possible loss of all hearing. There are no test runs. “As someone who has relied on what little hearing I did have for so long, it’s scary thinking that what if I lose the hearing I do have and it’s worse? So yes, I was really scared,” she said. But she went on with the surgery and the implant was activated a month later. 

The difference in hearing was subtle at first and not as life-changing as Richard had expected. “It was more just trying to make sense of what I was hearing,” she said. There were a few ah-ha moments after the implant was working. First when she heard the microwave beeping in her apartment. Then the moment her fiancé was talking in the living room with his back to Richard and she could hear him perfectly.

“I know I hear so much better with the cochlear implant. It’s amazing technology and it makes everything clear again,” she said. “So how has my life changed? It is a big question, but I feel like it’s brought back my confidence. When you lose your hearing, it can be very isolating and make you feel alone. It’s frustrating to not be able to go to certain events and enjoy them as everyone else can. My cochlear implant is slowly and surely bringing that back to me.”

Richard’s audiologist, Danielle Powell, said “People say the first sounds they hear are like Darth Vader or the Charlie Brown cartoons.”  A multi-center study reported in July 2015 by specialists at NYU Langone Medical Center, found that people like Richard achieved significant improvements in their hearing and understanding of speech with hybrid cochlear implants. Richard also has become an active volunteer with the Cochlear Awareness Network. “I am very passionate about helping people now with similar hearing loss,” she said. “Having a disability has also opened my life to be an advocate for all people with disabilities.” 

Feb 2017 Knowledge Science Report

People in noisy situations should face slightly away from the person they’re listening to and turn one ear towards the speech. A new study concludes that this listening tactic is especially beneficial for cochlear implant users who typically struggle in noisy social settings such as restaurants.

PartyThe study also finds it compatible with lip-reading, which was unaffected by a modest, 30-degree head orientation. “Noise can be a big issue for any listener and especially for someone with a cochlear implant,” says Jacques Grange of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology.

“Our study shows that by simply turning one ear towards the person they are listening to, cochlear implant users find it much easier to hear that person above background noise, enabling them to engage in conversations in noisy environments, and not become isolated. It’s better to have a clear signal in one ear than a mediocre signal in both.” 

When tested in the laboratory, with the speech in front of the listener and interfering noise behind, the technique resulted in a 4-decibel improvement to intelligibility of speech in a noisy environment for both normal-hearing listeners and cochlear implant users. A 4-decibel improvement can be the difference between understanding nothing and perfect understanding.

To simulate a realistic restaurant listening situation, acoustic measurements were also taken in the Mezza Luna restaurant in Cardiff and used to create a virtual acoustic simulation. In the simulation normally hearing listeners were tested at each table with three different head orientations: facing the target talker, with a 30-degree head turn to the left, or with a 30-degree head turn to the right.

Feb 2017 theTower.org

Israeli Hospital

Sixteen deaf Palestinian children received cochlear implants at a Jerusalem hospital over the past year, giving them a chance to hear for the first time. The 16 children, all from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, were treated at Hadassah Ein Kerem through a program organized by the Peres Center for Peace.

“The operations posed quite a logistical challenge,” said Dr. Michal Kaufmann, the surgeon who implanted the devices. “Many authorisations were required from the Defence Ministry, some of the children arrived without a medical record and required extensive tests at Hadassah, alongside the emotional and psychological treatment. These children couldn’t speak prior to the surgery, they were bereft of any supporting environment, uncommunicative. The surgery opened up their world, the ability to communicate and spread their wings.  We are happy to have been able to contribute to such a dramatic change in their lives.”