Dr. Wright's Blog

Hear Like a Fish

The aging process and exposure to noise are the most common causes of hearing loss in adults in Canada. The damage is to the outer hair cells inside the cochleae, the hearing organ, and it is irreversible. 

Researcher Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph. D.from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research has been studying zebra fish in an attempt understand how their hair cells regenerate. Zebra fish have hair cells along the lateral line that are used to sense movement through the water. These hair are integral for the survival of the fish and have long been known to regenerate from surrounding support cells when the hair cells are damaged or when they die.

In the study, Piotrowski killed off the hair cells with the drug neomycin and then using a time-lapsed video watched how the support cells differentiated and grew into a new sensory organ called a neuromast. When the hair cells were regenerating, the researchers observed that half of the supporting cells would become hair cells and the other half would grow into more support cells. This means that there is always a group of support cells on standby prepared to become hair cells when needed. 

This latest research provides insight on how outer hair cells in the human cochlea might be regenerated to restore hearing loss caused by the aging process or noise exposure.

Read the complete article at:http://www.stowers.org/media/news/jul-16-2015


Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids and Increased Risk of Falling

People over the age of 65 have an increased risk of falling. Many falls are preventable, meaning they are caused by some underlying problem that if diagnosed early, can be prevented. Some of the common causes of falls are related to vision issues and dizziness caused by medications or other illnesses.

More recent research has linked untreated hearing loss to a significant increase in risk of falls. A study in 2012 found that people with a mild hearing loss were 3 times more likely to have a history of falling compared to those with no hearing loss. People with mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss.  Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss meant an increased 1.4-fold risk of falling. 

This is a relatively new area of research and the underlying mechanisms of hearing loss and increased risk of falling are not fully understood. The current theory is that hearing loss decreases your awareness of the surrounding environment and this will increase your cognitive load because you need to allocate more resources to hearing and understanding speech. This means, less resources are available for other bodily functions such as maintaining balance. This also means the patient may not notice an uneven ground in front of them and if they begin to fall they have less resources to steady themselves.

Hearing aids can benefit by reducing the cognitive load for patients and to help them be more aware of their surroundings. One of the first things people say in my office after they have been fit with hearing aids, is that they can now hear their footsteps.

This is important information for body awareness and balance. 

For more information about the 2012 study see “Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Falling: Study. 2012

Healthy Hearing Expo 2016

We are excited to be hosting the 2016 Healthy Hearing Expo at the Victoria Conference Centre.  Seven years ago, I thought that if I was a consumer of hearing aids, I would want to do my due diligence to know what products and services were available to me.  In clinic I would hear the frustration in people’s voices after hours spent on Google trying in vain to learn about hearing aids. 

I came up with the idea to have representatives from all of the manufacturers of hearing aids come to Victoria so that people could take their time learning from each company what their hearing aids had to offer that was different from the competitor.  This once-a-year opportunity allows people to truly research what is new in the market, and what would be the best fit to their needs. 

There are others who can’t be bothered with this type of research.  It would be their thought that they could trust the Audiologist or Hearing Aid Practitioner to choose the product that is best for their hearing.  And for many years, this was a logical way to approach hearing aids.  In recent years however, some of the hearing aid manufacturers like Phonak and Oticon have gobbled up independent hearing clinics and brought them under their larger retail umbrella.  The problem with this approach is that the consumer has no way to know if the clinic they are working with is a retail dispensary for a manufacturer, or if it is an unbiased clinic that will not only know about the options out there, but will be skilled at programming multiple hearing devices.

Because Broadmead and Oak Bay Hearing Clinics are independent, we are able to host this event because of our work with every one of these hearing aid manufacturers.

It is our goal to match the most appropriate hearing aid with each individual person.  It is also our goal to provide information to everyone and be completely transparent in our business practice. 

If you are interested in learning more about hearing aids, mark this event on your calendars for April 19, 2016 at the Victoria Conference Center.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

What is it?

A sudden sensorineural hearing loss is defined as a spontaneous loss of hearing in one or both ears of at least 30 dB HL across three consecutive frequencies. Hearing loss may progress rapidly over a 3 day period, or it may happen all of a sudden in the middle of your day. It is commonly reported to occur after waking up in the morning. A sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be accompanied by tinnitus, a sensation of aural fullness, and dizziness or vertigo. 

What causes a sudden loss of hearing? 

The etiology of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss could be due to physical or acoustic trauma, infectious disease, circulatory disorders, neurologic disorders, an autoimmune response, an acoustic neuroma, ototoxicity, or compromised vascular function.

What to do about it.

Seek medical attention right away. Doctors work closely with ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialists and audiologists to determine the etiology of the hearing loss and formulate a treatment plan. A two-week course of steroids have been proven effective in the treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss but only if it is treated within a 72 hour window. 

Having your hearing tested at this time is an important piece of the puzzle; an audiogram will document the severity of loss and monitor the progression.

Audiologists also play a vital role in aural rehabilitation and long term hearing health management.


Hearing Fact

More than 8 million Canadians have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually they do not realize it is happening.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.