Aug 2016 Business Standard

A specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise has been identified in a move that could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss. As people age, their peripheral and central auditory system -- areas of the brain that help to intake and interpret sound -- decline in function. The results showed that in order to adapt for hearing loss, the speech motor area of the brain's frontal lobe steps in to help an older adult interpret someone talking in a noisy room. "Our study was able to show that we appear to tap into the speech motor areas, regions of the brain that are important for speech articulation and production, and use that information to identify speech embedded in noise," said Claude Alain, Assistant Director at Baycrest Health Sciences, a Canadian research and education hospital. "By showing there are other brain areas that affect hearing you can design training programs that target these brain areas to see if we can improve their use.”

2016  International Business Times Australian edition

A clinical trial on human subjects to reverse hearing loss will soon be conducted by Audion Therapeutics, a Dutch company, after a successful trial on mice. The 2013 study regrew hair cells in the rodent’s cochlea. The reversal is dependent on a notch inhibitor found in some animals such as birds and fish which allows the regrowth of inactive sensory hair cells after loss of hearing. Unfortunately, humans and mammals do not have the notch inhibitor which is why hearing loss becomes permanent. For the human trial, Audion would use compounds developed by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and with Frequency Therapeutics which would develop the treatment – using a tube or piece of foam in the middle ear to stimulate regrowth of hair cells damaged by sound. To fund the human trial, Audion raised €2.5 million (A$3.69 million) Series B investment from INKEF Capital, a venture capital firm based in The Netherlands. Audion was also awarded another €5.8 million (A$8.5 million) grant through the Horizon 2020 program. The combined funds would allow Audion to lead the clinical Proof of Concept of a treatment which targets sensorineural hearing loss. Reversal of hearing loss would benefit not only the elderly but the 900 million people expected to suffer from age-related hearing loss by 2050.

 

May 2016 Inside Indiana Business

“Ear-in-a-Dish” technology developed by a Hoosier researcher is generating so much buzz, one could argue it’s nearly audible—a fitting state for a discovery that focuses on hearing. Dr. Karl Koehler, Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) assistant professor of otolaryngology and head & neck surgery, has discovered a method to “grow” inner ear tissue in a petri dish. Koehler believes the award-winning and well-published technology could make waves in the world of treating hearing loss.

ear in a dish

 

 An Ear-in-a-Dish 3-D floating culture.

 

The very fragile hair-like cells are susceptible to damage by loud noises or certain drugs, such as chemotherapeutics or certain antibiotics. Koehler says the degeneration of these cells is the cause of hearing loss in about 75 percent of cases.

 

  

“There’s a big effort underway in the drug discovery world to identify new drugs that might be able to stimulate the growth of these hair cells,” says Koehler. “But it’s very difficult to study these cells, because of how the ear is situated in the body; it’s in a cocoon of bone.” Koehler believes he can give researchers easy access to these hair-like cells by growing them in petri dishes. After developing the method in an animal model, Koehler and colleagues are now looking at a method that will work with human stem cells. “From there, it’s a lot like cooking, we had to figure out the recipe—what different chemical cocktails we can treat them with to guide them into becoming these [inner ear] hair cells in a petri dish. Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to ‘mass produce’ these inner ear structures, so they can be used.  There are other companies out there doing similar things with neurons—brain cells. They’re taking these [stem cells] and producing millions and billions of brain cells and selling them to big pharma companies, so they can do diagnostic testing. They’re also doing this with cardiac cells.”

 

May 1st, 2011 by Rachel  cochlearimplantonline site 

Do cochlear implant recipients have a higher risk for meningitis?  How can I prevent meningitis?  What is meningitis?  These are common questions asked by cochlear implant recipients and parents of cochlear implant recipients.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.  There are two types of meningitis, viral and bacterial.  Bacterial meningitis is the one for which cochlear implant recipients have slightly higher risk than those who do not have cochlear implants.

There are vaccines to prevent meningitis.  The type of vaccines and dosage varies by the age of cochlear implant recipients.  Here is some information from Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Children who have cochlear implants or are candidates for cochlear implants who have not received any previous doses of PCV7, should receive PCV13 as it is recommended routinely for all infants and children.
  • Older children with cochlear implants (between their 2nd and 6th birthdays) should receive 2 doses of PCV13, if they have not received any doses of PCV7 or PCV13 previously. If they have already completed the 4-dose PCV7 series, they should receive one dose of PCV13 through age 71 months.
  • In addition, children 6 through 18 years of age with cochlear implants may receive a single dose of PCV13, regardless of whether they have previously received PCV7 or the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) (Pneumovax®).
  • In addition to receiving PCV13, children with cochlear implants should receive one dose of PPSV at age 2 years or older and after completing all recommended doses of PCV13.
  • Adult patients (19 and older) who are candidates for a cochlear implant, and those who have received a cochlear implant, should be given a single dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV).

Here is information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on symptoms of meningitis:

  • high fever
  • discomfort looking into bright lights
  • headache
  • sleepiness or tiredness
  • stiff neck
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • ear pain
  • vomiting
  • hearing loss
  • irritability
  • appetite loss

Here are some links from various sources on meningitis and vaccination:

Frequent Asked Questions from CDC

Advice for Patients with Cochlear Implants: New Information on Meningitis Risk from FDA

Recommendations from University of Miami School of Medicine

Can We Prevent Cochlear Implant Recipients from Developing Pneumococcal Meningitis? from Oxford Journal

Please be aware that while recipients should take precautions to prevent meningitis, it is still extremely rare to get it.  According to the FDA, as of April 2009, only 122 cases of meningitis in cochlear implant recipients out of 188,000 recipients were reported.

*DISCLAIMER* I am not a physician or a clinician.  Please consult your physician on more information about vaccination against meningitis.