New articles are published every month under the headings below.

Dementia Australia commemorates World Hearing Day

March 2018 AAPMedianet  

To commemorate World Hearing Day and ensure a better future for all Australians at risk of developing dementia or hearing loss, Dementia Australia has released information to help understand the link between the two conditions.  Executive Director Client Services Susan McCarthy said while hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults, it is important to seek assistance as soon as you can as the earlier hearing loss is diagnosed and treated,  the greater the impact of hearing interventions. It is also important to seek assistance because hearing health is related to brain health. “We know from a growing field of medical research that a decline in memory and thinking capabilities occurs approximately 40% faster in people with hearing loss than in those with perfect hearing,” Ms McCarthy said. “While these statistics are worrying, they offer hope that if we manage to diagnose and treat hearing loss earlier, we may help lower the risk of dementia.  

“It’s important to note that not everyone who has hearing loss will develop dementia. It is also important to be aware of lifestyle factors such as eating healthy, mental and physical exercise and keeping socially active that may reduce your risk of developing dementia, as well as undertaking preventative health management of hearing loss.”  

Researchers suggest the following theories could contribute towards the link between hearing loss and dementia

  • the social isolation experienced by those with hearing loss could contribute to a decline in mental abilities;
  • dementia and hearing loss could have similar causes and involve joint processes;
  • cognitive overload – the brain becomes run down because it has to work harder to decode and process sounds; and
  • hearing loss might affect brain structure, causing mental health decline.

The help sheet can be used to inform people about the associated risks and risk reduction strategies that can be adopted to reduce the likelihood of hearing loss and potentially reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. To download the help sheet visit www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-OtherInformation04-HearingLoss_english.pdf

Dementia Australia is the national peak body for people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 425,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than 1.1 million by 2056. Dementia Australia is the new voice of Alzheimer’s Australia. When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines.

No one deserves to live in silence: cricketer Brett Lee tells us why Hearing Matters

March 2018 YourStory.com

Cochlear designs, manufactures and delivers hearing implants and is committed to providing children who suffer hearing loss with the best hearing experience. Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee is Cochlear’s global ambassador. 

Brett Lee

For World Hearing Day, Cochlear launched Hearing Matters, a campaign to spread awareness about hearing loss in India, especially educating parents about the importance of screening newborns for hearing loss. A survey by Cochlear India and First Moms Club in New Delhi found that 84.1 percent mothers believe that children should be tested for hearing loss at birth, but only 38.9 percent actually had their child screened.

Mothers are aware of the need to get their children tested for hearing impairment, but do not know what they must do about it. Reports show that five to six out of 1000 newborns are hard of hearing, but they are not identified till irreversible damage has already been done.

Brett Lee says, “All too often, we take little things for granted such as how much hearing matters. It was a big wake up call for me when my son was diagnosed with hearing loss at the young age of five. We were fortunate enough to restore his hearing, but what about the millions of children who suffer with the condition every day? Early screening for hearing loss can ensure that children are diagnosed and treated early, allowing them to grow up into well-adjusted adults.”

Cochlear quotes that five percent of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. Of them, 91 percent are adults and nine percent are children. Fifty percent of hearing loss is preventable through immunising children against diseases like measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps, healthy ear and hearing care habits, and effective treatment of ear infections.

Brett Lee & kids

“A cochlear implant is a medical device that mimics the natural hearing function of the inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the inner ear and send electrical signals that provide hearing, directly to the hearing nerve. Cochlear implants may be a good solution for people with moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears who no longer get much or any benefit from hearing aids,” reads the Hearing Matters webpage.

Ananya Nakra received an implant when she was two-and-a-half years old. Over the next 11 years of her life, she has actively participated in dance, arts, and sports in school, and says that she can even sit at the back of her classroom and hear everything! Nahum Rajkumar’s mother cannot stop gushing about the implant that her son had when he was four years old. “Soon after the implant was switched on, he could hear and imitate high frequency sounds! Even a sound like ‘shhh’ – which is very important when it comes to language,” she says.

Brett LeeBrett Lee: I am passionate about raising hearing loss awareness in India. I have been visiting this wonderful country for the last two decades and it is my second home. Through “Hearing Matters,” we aim to bring focus to hearing health and the importance of early intervention. Around 32 million children across the globe suffer some form of hearing loss and India has a big population of this. We want to encourage every parent to get their child’s hearing tested and offer support for parents about potential treatments for hearing loss. This World Hearing Day, I hope we can raise awareness of hearing loss through the “Hearing Matters” campaign to help more children hear what the world has to offer.

It has been such a wonderful learning experience to interact with those who’ve received cochlear implants in India. I have travelled extensively across this wonderful country and met hundreds of cochlear implant recipients across cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, and Guwahati over the last few years. Each story is so powerful in its own way – so many adults and children who struggled with hearing loss now rejoice at the little sounds in life, such as the sound of their families laughing, the birds chirping or the rain beating against their window. Many have gone on to chase their dreams and it fills me with so much hope. With greater awareness, I’m convinced that we can reach more people, tackle hearing loss on multiple fronts and eventually bring down the numbers, globally and in India.

Early screening for hearing loss, particularly at birth is so important and Kerala’s efforts to push for universal newborn hearing screening are a great start! India must now try to make this a nationwide effort.

Posit Science Contributes to “Incredible Aging” on Public Television

March 2018 Nasdaq Globe Newswire

Posit Science Co-Founder Dr. Michael Merzenich lent his expert perspective on how to help your brain age well in the special “Incredible Aging: Adding Life to Your Years,” on US TV stations.

The documentary includes interviews with 19 leading experts in ageing, who shed light on the complex and often confusing information around healthy ageing. These legends in ageing research help set forth a blueprint for what people can do to maintain vibrancy and age successfully.

Dr. Merzenich is globally recognised for his research in brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to change chemically, structurally, and functionally, based on sensory and other inputs. He performed the seminal experiments that led to the discovery that the brain remains plastic throughout life. Dr. Merzenich has pioneered the application of brain plasticity to improve the human condition – first, in his co-invention of the cochlear implant and, more recently, in the development of plasticity-based computerized brain training. Dr. Merzenich and his company, Posit Science provide BrainHQ, an online brain exercise and assessment platform along with the book Disrupt Aging by Jo Ann Jenkins, the cookbook Eat Live by Joel Fuhrman, and the DVD “Easy Yoga: The Secret to Strength and Balance” with Peggy Capp.

BrainHQ contains dozens of brain exercises that personalise to each user within minutes. Because BrainHQ is cloud-based, users can access it from most internet-connected computers, tablets, and smartphones. BrainHQ takes a unique bottom-up approach, focusing on brain speed and attention, as foundational to higher cognitive function, such as memory and reasoning. While the exercises in BrainHQ have a game-like look and feel, they are based on serious science. A 2017 systematic comparison (published in Neuropsychological Review) found most brain exercise products targeting older adults had zero evidence of efficacy, but that BrainHQ was the only commercially-available product backed by multiple high-quality studies. There are now more than 140 peer-reviewed journal articles on the benefits of BrainHQ, which include better performance at standard measures of cognition (e.g., speed, attention, memory), at standard measures of quality of life (e.g., mood, confidence, health-related quality of life), and at real-world activities (e.g., balance, driving, everyday cognition). Recent studies also have shown a positive impact on brain chemistry and structure.

Potential in Brunei

March 2018 Borneo Bulletin Online

There is potential for Cochlear Limited, a global leader in hearing-implant devices, to explore opportunities and expand their work in Brunei Darussalam. Tze Mau Ng, the General Manager of Asia Growth Markets for Cochlear, shared this during a visit by Asean media to Cochlear Limited’s headquarters at the Macquarie University campus in Sydney.

In a presentation, Tze Mau said that 72,000 people across the Asia-Pacific region have been helped with Cochlear’s technology, with approximately 4,000 in Asean. “As of today, how we are supporting Brunei is through our Malaysia team. So our distributor partner and business partner in Malaysia do travel to Brunei whenever there is a surgery. That’s mainly on a supportive kind of work that we are doing for Brunei.

Tze Mau Ng

Tze Mau Ng during his presentation

Of course, we can share and talk about it with whoever the professional is in Brunei and how do we expand and work with him and other groups to expand and other things. But right now it’s a very supportive kind of function. There is an opportunity for us to help and at the same time I think countries today, it’s just, how fast we can grow and making sure that the infrastructure is able to support the recipients,” he said, adding that a key part is building infrastructure and capability.

The importance of having a whole support system and infrastructure in place was also highlighted in his presentation, where he explained that this is because once a patient has been implanted, they need life-long support.

Asked on the potential for Cochlear to invest in Brunei, he said, “Certainly. Definitely if there’s an opportunity for us to work with a partner as well as together with the health institutions then I think there are things that we are definitely interested to do there.” Adding on, Tze Mau shared, “At the end of the day, as I said, it’s really the whole partnership, the whole collaboration. The Bruneian Government, I know it provides a very established healthcare system for their people, so I think this is an area we could engage and talk about the opportunity how we can do more.”

University Audiologists Assess, Assist Hearing-Impaired Animals

March 2018 American Veterinarian

The Universities of Cincinnati, Northern Colorado, and Akron have collaborated to create FETCHLAB—a program that enables audiology students to learn about and become certified in administering hearing tests and providing related services to animals. “We train audiologists to work with humans of all ages in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss,” said Kathryn Bright, PhD, director of FETCHLAB at the University of Northern Colorado. “We believed that by giving our Doctor of Audiology students the opportunity to test animals, they could enhance their audiology skills at the same time that we provide a service to veterinarians, breeders and pet owners.”

FETCHLAB—the Facility for Education and Testing of Canine Hearing & Laboratory for Animal Bioacoustics—was founded in 2007 when Peter Scheifele, MDr, PhD, LCDR USN (Ret.), a former dolphin trainer for the Navy, decided to give hearing tests to animals for audiologic research. A decade later, Dr. Scheifele’s team at the University of Cincinnati is testing 1000 dogs and 300 exotic animals, including Asian small-clawed otters, rhinoceroses, and elephants, each year.

Although none of the universities enrolled in the FETCHLAB program have dedicated veterinary colleges, they all have veterinarians on site during the testing, according to Kristine Sonstrom, PhD, director of the Akron University program.

Def dog

Rather than asking the animals to raise a paw when they hear a beep, the program relies on the brainstem auditory evoked response test, which involves placing electrodes on the head and assessing the brain’s response to various sounds. Each animal must pass a wellness exam from a veterinarian prior to being tested. Animals are not sedated during testing. Instead, dogs are fitted with Thundershirts and a topical analgesic is rubbed onto the 3 spots on the head where the electrodes will be placed. During the test, a soft foam earphone is placed in the canal of the ear being evaluated. Then, the audiologists can read the electroencephalogram of how the animal’s brain responds to each sound.

Animal being assessed

Animals determined to have a hearing disability are provided with resources, such as vibrating collars, or taught to respond to hand signals over vocal cues. In some instances, a dog might also be fitted with a hearing aid. Dr. Scheifele, who also serves as the Department of Defense K9 audiologic specialist, has fitted 8 dogs with hearing aids in the past 7 years.

FETCHLAB’s audiologists encourage veterinarians with hearing-impaired patients to contact them for assistance. “Working alongside veterinarians, animal audiologists can help to advance veterinary medicine by providing more comprehensive evaluations of hearing health, as well as counselling and recommendations for management of hearing loss,” Dr. Bright said. “Animal audiologists can assist veterinarians by providing more precise and ear-specific diagnostic assessments of animal hearing sensitivity.”

Dr. Scheifele noted that veterinary audiology is not a widespread area of practice. “My aim is to see animal audiology become a veterinary subspecialty where professional audiologists will work alongside veterinarians in the same way that they work with ENT MDs,” he said. “This will lead to better options becoming available to pet owners, the eventual decrease in deaf animals being bred, better working dogs and better diagnoses for hearing and vestibular issues in animals including exotic animals under professional care.”

Lottie Dolls Introduces First Doll with Cochlear Implant; Sells Out to Critical Acclaim

March 2018  Gifts and Decorative Accessories

Lottie Doll

After its market introduction last December, Lottie Dolls’ Mia the Wildlife Photographer has sold out of its initial shipment and is anticipating a new delivery to fulfil retail orders. The first-of-its-kind doll was created to reflect the brand's mission: that childhood should be an inclusive place, where every child belongs regardless of gender, ethnicity or ability.

Although the Mia doll wears a cochlear implant, this is part of her story rather than a focal point. A keen photographer, the Mia character also has a mission to encourage children to take an interest in nature and wildlife. A mini-newspaper was created, comprised of nature photos submitted by fans of the doll as part of an international photography competition.

Mia was created following consultation with Toy Like Me, a U.K. non-profit that has campaigned for diversity in toy development and for better representation of disabilities, so that differently-abled children can see themselves reflected in the toys they play with. Toy Like Me was set up in 2015 by former BBC journalist and children's writer, Rebecca Atkinson, who wears hearing aids herself.

“When I was growing up in the 80s,” says Atkinson, “I never saw any deaf characters in toys, books or on TV. When I became a mum myself, I decided it was time things changed. I wanted the global toy industry to act, to better represent the 150 million children worldwide with disability and difference.”

The Mia doll is expected to begin shipping upon receipt of the next shipment, due shortly.

Events Coming Up

22 Apr 2018;
10:30AM - 02:00PM
Illawarra Cochlear Implant Support Group
03 May 2018;
10:30AM - 12:00PM
Thursday Social Gatherings

Hear For You

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Hear For You web site

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