Nov 2017 scimex
Rattling train carriages, honking cars and squealing breaks may do more harm than simply grinding your gears, as new research from Canada suggests that the noise levels bikers and public transport commuters experience could induce hearing loss. Measuring the amount of noise commuters are exposed to in Toronto, the researchers were surprised to find some bursts of noise were loud enough to affect hearing if commuters were exposed to it repeatedly over a long period of time. Until this can be factored in by city planners, the researchers suggest you should cover your ears with appropriate protection.

 Ear protectionEfforts to control noise should focus on materials and equipment that provide a quieter environment, researchers at the University of Toronto suggest. Hearing protection while using public transport should also be promoted.

Dr. Vincent Lin said: “This study is the first to look at and quantify the amount of noise people are exposed to during their daily commute. We now are starting to understand that chronic excessive noise exposure leads to significant systemic pathology, such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of chronic diseases and increased accident risk. Short, intense noise exposure has been demonstrated to be as injurious as longer, less intense noise exposure. We were surprised at the overall average noise exposure commuters experience on a daily basis, especially the peak noise intensity not only on trains but also on buses. Planners need to be more considerate of noise exposure in future planning of public spaces and public transit routes.

Measuring noise exposure on public (subways, trams and buses) and private (cars, bike, walking) transport in Toronto, the researchers found that while noise on average was within the recommended levels of safe exposure, bursts of loud noise on both public and private modes of transportation could still place individuals at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. According to thresholds recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to 114 A-weighted decibels (dBA) for longer than four seconds, exposure to 117dBA for longer than two seconds and exposure to 120 dBA for longer than 20 seconds may put people at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. A-weighted decibels express the relative loudness of sounds experienced by the human ear, taking into account that sensitivity to noise differs depending on noise frequency.  Peak noise levels in dBa across both public and personal transport exceeded the EPA recommended thresholds. The average noise levels by bike were greater than any level caused by modes of public transit.

The authors caution that the number of measurements taken for individual modes of transport is relatively low and that the cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect. Further studies are needed to investigate other factors that may contribute to noise exposure such as use of music players and lengthy transit times.


Oct 2017 medGadget

Currently, the aims of brain computer interfaces are twofold. The first is use our greater knowledge of the brain to create devices that can assist and repair brains that have received damage in some way. The second is to augment the ability of a brain to be able to do much more than it already can. Scientists have made great breakthroughs in neuroscience using implanted neurons in the brain to help repair vision, hearing and paralysis. The next step is to develop less invasive methods of achieving the same goals with an eye on producing implants that can enhance human ability to input and output information from the brain, to achieve things such as brain to brain communication and enhancing the brain's ability through connecting it to computers. The proponents of this technology see it as a necessary development in order for humans to keep pace with technologies such as AI.

Key Questions Answered
– What is a neural lace and why do people want to create it?
– What disabilities are able to be overcome with neural implants?
– How are neural implants going to be useful in the future of the species?

– Learn how tech combined with neurology is creating some fascinating new abilities to fix and augment the brain.
– Examine the companies that are researching in this area.
– See the types of remarkable things that modern neurology can do and how swiftly it will change our world. 

Reasons to Read
– In the last five years, there have been some remarkable breakthroughs in medical implant technology that show that injuries and conditions which were previously thought to be unsolvable can now begin to be remedied. Whilst the technology is still relatively crude, it has established certain medical principles that will become commonplace, such as creating BCIs (brain computer interface).
– Cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the ear and use electrical stimulation to enable a deaf patient to hear again. Using a system of microphones and sound processors around the ear, these devices can bypass the damaged parts of the brain to deliver electrical stimulus to the nerves that transmit sound information to the brain.
– Whilst much of the progress made in BCI technology so far has been from medical companies looking to solve a specific medical problem, the next wave of BCI market entrants are very different. A number of well-funded ventures have begun that aim to build on the steps taken in the medical arena to develop technologies for a completely different purpose. These companies are looking to draw on the technological skill of Silicon Valley to produce devices and implants that can connect a person with a computer for the aim of enhancing their capabilities.

A woman from the North of England has had her hearing restored after having an ‘invisible’ hearing device implanted.

Linda OxleyLinda Oxley received the Cochlear Carina implant.

Linda Oxley, 67, is the fourth person in the UK to be given the implant which has been designed for people with severe hearing loss and who can no longer benefit from traditional hearing aids.
Repeated ear infections meant that Linda couldn’t do simple things such as shopping as she couldn’t hear what people were saying. Now Linda says her quality of life has improved.
“My life has changed beyond belief. As soon as the implant was switched on I could tell the difference straight away. I could hear traffic, people whistling, dogs barking, even hear the owl at night.”

The surgery was performed at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust by Professor Jaydip Ray, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon. The Cochlear Carina hearing device is implanted into the fine bones of a woman’s middle ear, making it unseen from outside of the scalp.
The device uses a microphone and implant processor to pick up sounds from the outside world. A mechanical driver is connected to the parts, which is positioned inside the mastoid bone behind the ear. This allows sounds to be transferred from the outside world to the fine bone of the middle ear. Linda Oxley continued: "I couldn’t hear what people were saying and I began to feel depressed and not go out as much. When I did venture out I used to put my head down and hope that people didn’t see me so that I did not have to speak to them because I could not hear what they would say to me. I get choked up when I think about it, let’s just say cornflakes and crisps are a new experience. I’m really lucky to have had this operation. It’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Professor Jaydip Ray, who undertook the operation at Sheffield’s Hallamshire Hospital, said: “The device is fully implantable, there’s nothing to show on the outside, and the duration for charging is exactly the same as an episode of Emmerdale or EastEnders. It works beautifully as it doesn’t need to be switched on or off, and it gives 24/7 hearing.”


Oct 2017 Illawarra Mercury

 Felix WilliamsInspirational: Felix Williams was born profoundly deaf - and on Monday met the inventor of the bionic ear he had implanted - Professor Graeme Clark. 

Windang schoolboy Felix Williams wants to be a rock star when he grows up - but he never would have been able to develop a passion for music had he not received cochlear implants at just five months old. Recently he met the man who gave him the gift of hearing - bionic ear inventor Professor Graeme Clark. But it may have been the latter who was more starstruck. ‘’It’s awesome – a real joy,’’ the esteemed scientist said. ‘’To be truthful I couldn’t believe the benefits when I started (developing the implant). I got so much criticism, I almost lost any sense of pride, I was treated like a clown. Then, when after much persistence and effort, it became a reality – to see the joy on the faces of the children in particular, it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears.’’
Felix, 8, was born profoundly deaf, with parents Jo and David immediately investigating the multi-channel cochlear implant. They took Felix as a tiny baby to an event Professor Clark was attending. ‘’A few weeks out from Felix’s surgery we heard Graeme Clark was attending an awards night at the University of Wollongong and so we went along,’’ Mrs Williams said. ‘’He was absolutely delightful and helped put our minds at ease about going ahead with the surgery.’’
The surgery was a success and after early intervention at The Shepherd Centre in Wollongong, Felix progressed to mainstream school. ‘’He loves school and while he tires easily he doesn’t let it hold him back academically,’’ Mrs Williams said. ‘’He’s also passionate about music – which we never thought he’d be able to appreciate – he’s been learning the guitar and wants to be a rock star.’’
The early meeting with Prof Clark also instilled in the former IT worker a love of science and she continued to attend public lectures at the university. Once Felix was at school, Mrs Williams was no longer content to sit back and let others do the research, and embarked upon a Masters of Biofabrication.Mrs Williams
She was rewarded for her efforts after receiving the annual Bill Wheeler Award, given to a student engaged in bionics research with public benefit. ‘’When you get a cochlear implant there’s a risk that any background hearing you might have will be destroyed due to the inflammatory response to the foreign body. My research is looking at how we can put an anti-inflammatory inside the implant – through 3D printing – to reduce that risk.’’
For Prof Clark, seeing Mrs Williams come full circle, from audience member to award recipient, is satisfying. ‘’It’s exciting to see that people share that excitement about the implant and who take it to the next level,’’ he said. ‘’It’s a new era of medicine and engineering – not only to improve and work on the next generation of bionic ears, but bionic eyes, bionic spinal cords … brains and organs in dishes to test out new drugs. Different disciplines are working together for the best progress for mankind.’’ Prof Clark continues to collaborate with ARC Centre for Electromaterials Science director Professor Gordon Wallace – where Mrs Williams, and many others, conduct their specialised research. ‘’The University of Melbourne has kindly created the Graeme Clark Institute for Biomedical Engineering which is a very nice fit for some of the research happening at UOW,’’ he said.