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Niyazi Arslan Cochlear implants are among the most successful neural prostheses on the market. These artificial ears have allowed nearly 1 million people globally with severe to profound hearing loss to either regain access to the sounds around them or experience the sense of hearing for the first time. However, the effectiveness of cochlear implants varies greatly across users because of a range of factors, such as hearing loss duration and age at implantation. Children who receive implants at a younger age may may be able to acquire auditory skills similar to their peers with natural hearing. I am a researcher studying pitch perception with cochlear implants. Understanding the mechanics of this technology and its limitations can help lead to potential new developments and improvements in the future. In fully-functional hearing, sound waves enter the ear canal and are converted into neural impulses as they move through hairlike sensory cells in the cochlea, or inner ear. These neural signals then travel through the auditory nerve behind the cochlea to the central auditory areas of the brain, resulting in a perception of sound. Analysis of the world, from experts People with severe to profound hearing loss often have damaged or missing sensory cells and are unable to convert sound waves into electrical signals. Cochlear implants bypass these hairlike cells by directly stimulating the auditory nerve with electrical pulses. Cochlear implants consist of an external part wrapped behind the ear and an internal part implanted under the skin. © 2010–2023, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28639 - Posted: 01.25.2023

Miryam Naddaf Stimulating neurons that are linked to alertness helps rats with cochlear implants learn to quickly recognize tunes, researchers have found. The results suggest that activity in a brain region called the locus coeruleus (LC) improves hearing perception in deaf rodents. Researchers say the insights are important for understanding how the brain processes sound, but caution that the approach is a long way from helping people. “It’s like we gave them a cup of coffee,” says Robert Froemke, an otolaryngologist at New York University School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, published in Nature on 21 December1. Cochlear implants use electrodes in the inner-ear region called the cochlea, which is damaged in people who have severe or total hearing loss. The device converts acoustic sounds into electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve, and the brain learns to process these signals to make sense of the auditory world. Some people with cochlear implants learn to recognize speech within hours of the device being implanted, whereas others can take months or years. “This problem has been around since the dawn of cochlear implants, and it shows no signs of being resolved,” says Gerald Loeb at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who helped to develop one of the first cochlear implants. Researchers say that a person’s age, the duration of their hearing loss and the type of processor and electrodes in the implant don’t account for this variation, but suggest that the brain could be the source of the differences. “It’s sort of the black box,” says Daniel Polley, an auditory neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Most previous research has focused on improving the cochlear device and the implantation procedure. Attempts to improve the brain’s ability to use the device open up a way to improve communication between the ear and the brain, says Polley. © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28615 - Posted: 12.28.2022

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Music makes you lose control, Missy Elliott once sang on a hit that is almost impossible to hear without bopping along. Now scientists have discovered that rats also find rhythmic beats irresistible, showing how they instinctively move in time to music. This ability was previously thought to be uniquely human and scientists say the discovery provides insights into the animal mind and the origins of music and dance. “Rats displayed innate – that is, without any training or prior exposure to music – beat synchronisation,” said Dr Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo. “Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition,” he added. While there have been previous demonstrations of animals dancing along to music – TikTok has a wealth of examples – the study is one of the first scientific investigations of the phenomenon. In the study, published in the journal Science Advances, 10 rats were fitted with wireless, miniature accelerometers to measure the slightest head movements. They were then played one-minute excerpts from Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, at four different tempos: 75%, 100%, 200% and 400% of the original speed. Twenty human volunteers also participated. The scientists thought it possible that rats would prefer faster music as their bodies, including heartbeat, work at a faster pace. By contrast, the time constant of the brain is surprisingly similar across species. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28547 - Posted: 11.13.2022

Elizabeth Pennisi Think of the chattiest creatures in the animal kingdom and songbirds, dolphins, and—yes—humans probably come to mind. Turtles probably don’t register. But these charismatic reptiles also communicate using a large repertoire of clicks, snorts, and chortles. Now, by recording the “voices” of turtles and other supposedly quiet animals, scientists have concluded that all land vertebrate vocalizations—from the canary’s song to the lion’s roar—have a common root that dates back more than 400 million years. The findings imply animals began to vocalize very early in their evolutionary history—even before they possessed well-developed ears, says W. Tecumseh Fitch, a bioacoustician at the University of Vienna who was not involved with the work. “It suggests our ears evolved to hear these vocalizations.” Several years ago, University of Arizona evolutionary ecologist John Wiens and his graduate student Zhuo Chen started looking into the evolutionary roots of acoustic communication—basically defined as the sounds animals make with their mouths using their lungs. Combing the scientific literature, the duo compiled a family tree of all the acoustic animals known at the time, eventually concluding such soundmaking abilities arose multiple times in vertebrates between 100 million and 200 million years ago. But Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Zürich, noticed an oversight: turtles. Though Wiens and Chen had found that only two of 14 families of turtles made sounds, he was finding a lot more. He spent 2 years recording 50 turtle species in the act of “speaking.”

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28530 - Posted: 10.28.2022

By Paula Span The world of hearing health will change on Oct. 17, when the Food and Drug Administration’s new regulations, announced in August, will make quality hearing aids an over-the-counter product. It just won’t transform as quickly or as dramatically, at least at first, as advocates, technology and consumer electronics companies and people with mild to moderate hearing loss have been hoping. “It finally, actually happened after all these years,” said Dr. Frank Lin, the director of the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health and a longtime supporter of the regulations, which Congress authorized five years ago. “Ninety-plus percent of adults with hearing loss have needs that can be served by over-the-counter hearing aids,” he said. For decades, the sale of hearing aids was restricted to licensed audiologists and other professionals; that has kept prices high — prescription hearing aids can cost $4,000 to $5,000 — and access limited. In contrast, the regulations provide “a clear glide path for new companies to enter this field,” Dr. Lin said. But, he quickly added, “it may be the Wild West for the next few years.” Barbara Kelley, the executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, concurred: “It’s a new frontier, and it is confusing. We need time to see how the market settles out.” In an ideal scenario, a person would be able to walk into almost any pharmacy or big-box store and buy a sophisticated pair of hearing aids for a few hundred dollars, no prescription required. But the shift won’t materialize right away, experts say. In 2017, Congress granted the F.D.A. three years to develop standards for safe and effective over-the-counter hearing aids. The agency took five years instead, and the long delay and continued industry opposition made manufacturers skittish about investing, Dr. Lin said. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28509 - Posted: 10.13.2022

By Carolyn Gramling Hot or not? Peeking inside an animal’s ear — even a fossilized one — may tell you whether it was warm- or cold-blooded. Using a novel method that analyzes the size and shape of the inner ear canals, researchers suggest that mammal ancestors abruptly became warm-blooded about 233 million years ago, the team reports in Nature July 20. Warm-bloodedness, or endothermy, isn’t unique to mammals — birds, the only living dinosaurs, are warm-blooded, too. But endothermy is one of mammals’ key features, allowing the animals to regulate their internal body temperatures by controlling their metabolic rates. This feature allowed mammals to occupy environmental niches from pole to equator, and to weather the instability of ancient climates (SN: 6/7/22). When endothermy evolved, however, has been a mystery. Based on fossil analyses of growth rates and oxygen isotopes in bones, researchers have proposed dates for its emergence as far back as 300 million years ago. The inner ear structures of mammals and their ancestors hold the key to solving that mystery, says Ricardo Araújo, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Lisbon. In all vertebrates, the labyrinth of semicircular canals in the inner ear contains a fluid that responds to head movements, brushing against tiny hair cells in the ear and helping to maintain a sense of balance. That fluid can become thicker or thinner depending on body temperature. “Mammals have very unique inner ears,” Araújo says. Compared with cold-blooded vertebrates of similar size, the dimensions of mammals’ semicircular canals — such as thickness, length and radius of curvature — is particularly small, he says. “The ducts are very thin and tend to be very circular compared with other animals.” By contrast, fish have the largest for their body size. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 28408 - Posted: 07.23.2022

Freda Kreier Some bats can imitate the sound of buzzing hornets to scare off owls, researchers say. The discovery is the first documented case of a mammal mimicking an insect to deter predators. Many animals copy other creatures in a bid to make themselves seem less palatable to predators. Most of these imitations are visual. North America’s non-venomous scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides), for instance, has evolved to have similar colour-coding to the decidedly more dangerous eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius). Now, a study comparing the behaviour of owls exposed to insect and bat noises suggests that greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) might be among the few animals to have weaponized another species’ sound, says co-author Danilo Russo, an animal ecologist at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy. “When we think of mimicry, the first thing that comes to mind is colour, but in this case, it is sound that plays a crucial role,” he adds. The research was published on 9 May in Current Biology1. Because they are nocturnal and have poor eyesight, most bats rely on echolocation to find their way around, and communicate using a wide array of other noises. Russo first noticed that the distress call of the greater mouse-eared bat sounded like the buzzing of bees or hornets while he was catching the bats for a different research project. To investigate whether other animals might make the same connection, Russo and his colleagues compared the sound structure of buzzing by the European hornet (Vespa crabro) to that of the bat’s distress call. At most frequencies, the two sounds were not dramatically similar, but they were when the bat’s call was stripped down to include only frequencies that owls — one of the animal’s main predators — are able to hear. This suggests that the distress call as heard by owls strongly resembles the buzzing of a hornet, Russo says, so it could fool predators. © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28324 - Posted: 05.11.2022

Neuroscience researchers have found a master gene that controls the development of special sensory cells in the ears – potentially opening the door to reversing hearing loss. A team led by Jaime García-Añoveros of Northwestern University, US, established that a gene called Tbx2 controls the development of ear hair cells in mice. The findings of their study are published today in Nature. What are hair cells? Hair cells are the sensory cells in our ears that detect sound and then transmit a message to our brains. They are so named because they have tiny hairlike structures called stereocilia. “The ear is a beautiful organ,” says García-Añoveros. “There is no other organ in a mammal where the cells are so precisely positioned.” Hair cells are found in a structure called the organ of Corti, in the cochlea in the inner ear. The organ of Corti sits on top of the basilar membrane. Sound waves are funnelled through our ear canal and cause the eardrum (also known as the tympanic membrane) and ossicles (tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes) to vibrate. The vibrations, or waves, are transmitted through fluid in the cochlea, causing the basilar membrane to move as well. When the basilar membrane moves, the stereocilia tilt, causing ion channels in the hair cell membrane to open. This stimulates the hair cell to release neurotransmitter chemicals, which will transmit the sound signal to the brain via the auditory nerve.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 28319 - Posted: 05.07.2022

By Sharon Oosthoek Despite their excellent vision, one city-dwelling colony of fruit bats echolocates during broad daylight — completely contrary to what experts expected. A group of Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) in downtown Tel Aviv uses sound to navigate in the middle of the day, researchers report in the April 11 Current Biology. The finding greatly extends the hours during which bats from this colony echolocate. A few years ago, some team members had noticed bats clicking while they flew under low-light conditions. The midday sound-off seems to help the bats forage and navigate, even though they can see just fine. Bats that are active during the day are unusual. Out of the more than 1,400 species, roughly 10 are diurnal. What’s more, most diurnal bats don’t use echolocation during the day, relying instead on their vision to forage and avoid obstacles. They save echolocation for dim light or dark conditions. So that’s why, two years ago, a group of Tel Aviv researchers were surprised when they noticed a bat smiling during the day. They were looking over photos from their latest study of Egyptian fruit bats when they noticed one with its mouth slightly parted and upturned. “When an Egyptian fruit bat is smiling, he’s echolocating — he’s producing clicks with his tongue and his mouth is open,” says Ofri Eitan, a bat researcher at Tel Aviv University. “But this was during the day, and these bats see really well.” When Eitan and his colleagues looked through other photos — thousands of them — many showed smiling bats in broad daylight. The team showed in 2015 that the diurnal Egyptian fruit bats do use echolocation outdoors under various low light conditions, at least occasionally. But the researchers hadn’t looked at whether the bats were echolocating during midday hours when light levels are highest. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28286 - Posted: 04.16.2022

Nicola Davis Science correspondent It may not yet feature in a West End musical but scientists say they have found an unexpected response to singin’ in the brain. Researchers say they have found particular groups of neurons that appear to respond selectively to the sound of singing. Writing in the journal Current Biology, a team of scientists in the US report how they made their discovery by recording electrical activity in the brains of 15 participants, each of whom had electrodes inserted inside their skulls to monitor epileptic seizures before undergoing surgery. The team recorded electrical activity in response to 165 different sounds, from pieces of instrumental music to speech and sounds such as dogs barking, and then processed them using an algorithm. They combined the results with data from fMRI brain scans previously collected from 30 different individuals to map the location of the patterns in the brain. Dr Samuel Norman-Haignere, a co-author of the study based at the University of Rochester, said the team decided to combine the data from the different approaches to overcome their respective weaknesses and combine their strengths. “fMRI is one of the workhorses of human cognitive neuroscience, but it is very coarse. Intracranial data is much more precise but has very poor spatial coverage,” he said. The results confirmed previous findings from fMRI scans that some neurons respond only to speech or respond more strongly to music. However, they also revealed populations of neurons that appear to respond selectively to the sound of singing, showing only very weak responses to other types of music or speech alone. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 28217 - Posted: 02.23.2022

By Hallie Levine If you have ever had a ringing or buzzing in one or both ears after a live concert, you have experienced tinnitus — defined as the perception of noise where no external noise is present, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Aside from loud sound, a variety of issues, like excess ear wax, infections and nasal congestion, can cause short-term tinnitus. After a loud event like a concert, the intrusive sounds usually fade within hours to days. But chronic tinnitus — where noise persistently waxes and wanes, or never disappears — affects about 11 percent of adults. In some cases, this can lead to trouble sleeping or concentrating, isolation, anxiety, depression and stress. A 2019 research letter published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery found that women with undiagnosed tinnitus were even at increased risk of suicide. Is there a covid-19 connection? During the pandemic, reports of tinnitus rose, especially in people with covid-19. A study published online last March in the International Journal of Audiology estimated that almost 15 percent of those with covid-19 said they had tinnitus, often early in the course of the virus. This typically lasted only a few days. But “there have been anecdotal reports from patients that they have experienced changes in hearing and tinnitus post-covid,” says Cleveland Clinic audiologist Sarah Sydlowski, president of the American Academy of Audiology. One theory is that the virus that causes covid-19 damages the auditory nerve at least temporarily, says Douglas Hildrew, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist at Yale Medicine.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28190 - Posted: 02.09.2022

ByWarren Cornwall Bats use sound to hunt a dizzying array of prey. Some zero in on flowers to sip nectar, whereas others find cattle and suck their blood. Many nab insects midflight. One species of bat senses small fish beneath the water and snatches them as osprey do. Now, scientists have discovered an anatomical quirk in the ears of some bats that could help explain how they evolved so many hunting specialties. “For me this is a huge revelation,” says Zhe-Xi Luo, a University of Chicago evolutionary biologist who has studied the origins of mammalian hearing and supervised the new research. “This is totally distinct and unique from all other hearing mammals.” Most bats use their ears to “see” the world around them: After a bat chirps, its ears sense shapes and movement as sound waves bounce off objects, much as ships use sonar. Bats’ ears were long thought to be just a finely tuned version of the ears of nearly all mammals. Then, in 2015, Benjamin Sulser, a University of Chicago biology student on the hunt for a thesis project, took detailed 3D images of the inner ear of a bat skull. But he couldn’t find a feature common in virtually all mammals—a bony tube that encases the nerve cells and connects the ear to the brain. Thinking he’d made a mistake, he and Luo imaged the skulls of two more related species using a computed tomography scanner, with similar results. The researchers realized they might have stumbled across an answer to a mystery that had bedeviled bat biologists for 2 decades—and an explanation for why some families of bats had such a diverse echolocation arsenal. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28175 - Posted: 01.29.2022

By Elizabeth Landau In a narrow medical school hallway, Matt Stewart opened a large cabinet to reveal dozens of shelves stacked with wooden boxes and trays, some at least 100 years old. Stewart, tall and silver-haired, pulled out one of the trays and showed off its contents: Thin slices of human skull bones and the organs of hearing and balance they contain, stained shades of pink. Affixed to microscope slides, the anatomical bits resembled abstract rubber stamp art, no bigger than thumbprints. “Our Johns Hopkins history,” he said, referring to the university’s collection of specimens from more than 5,000 patients. Stewart’s research team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had a long, complicated journey to make slides like these in 2021. The researchers need these specimens, sliced from the portion of skull that houses the inner ear, to ask a fundamental question about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2: Does it directly invade the cells of tissues that enable hearing and balance? Ear surgeon Matt Stewart leads a research team at Johns Hopkins University that is investigating how SARS-CoV-2 might infect ear cells that enable hearing and balance. Data on ear problems as they relate to Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is spotty. To date, case reports and small studies have found that some Covid-19 patients experience significant and rapid hearing loss, ringing in the ears called tinnitus, or balance issues. Estimates vary on the prevalence of these symptoms, but because the coronavirus has infected hundreds of millions of people, even a few percent of Covid patients experiencing hearing loss would add up to a large increase globally. Yet no causal link has been drawn between the novel coronavirus and auditory symptoms. Hearing problems aren’t even on lists of Covid-19 symptoms, short or long-term, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28139 - Posted: 01.05.2022

Bill Chappell People with mild or moderate hearing loss could soon be able to buy hearing aids without a medical exam or special fitting, under a new rule being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. The agency says 37.5 million American adults have difficulty hearing. "Today's move by FDA takes us one step closer to the goal of making hearing aids more accessible and affordable for the tens of millions of people who experience mild to moderate hearing loss," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said as he announced the proposed rule on Tuesday. There is no timeline yet for when consumers might be able to buy an FDA-regulated over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid. The proposed rule is now up for 90 days of public comment. The Hearing Loss Association of America, a consumer advocacy group, welcomed the proposal. "This is one step closer to seeing OTC hearing devices on the market," Barbara Kelley, the group's executive director, said in an email to NPR. "We hope adults will be encouraged to take that important first step toward good hearing health." Advocates and lawmakers have been calling for OTC hearing aids for years, including in a big push in 2017, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the bipartisan Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. The legislators are now praising the FDA's move. © 2021 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28042 - Posted: 10.20.2021

By Christiane Gelitz, Maddie Bender | To a chef, the sounds of lip smacking, slurping and swallowing are the highest form of flattery. But to someone with a certain type of misophonia, these same sounds can be torturous. Brain scans are now helping scientists start to understand why. People with misophonia experience strong discomfort, annoyance or disgust when they hear particular triggers. These can include chewing, swallowing, slurping, throat clearing, coughing and even audible breathing. Researchers previously thought this reaction might be caused by the brain overactively processing certain sounds. Now, however, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has linked some forms of misophonia to heightened “mirroring” behavior in the brain: those affected feel distress while their brains act as if they are mimicking the triggering mouth movements. “This is the first breakthrough in misophonia research in 25 years,” says psychologist Jennifer J. Brout, who directs the International Misophonia Research Network and was not involved in the new study. The research team, led by Newcastle University neuroscientist Sukhbinder Kumar, analyzed brain activity in people with and without misophonia when they were at rest and while they listened to sounds. These included misophonia triggers (such as chewing), generally unpleasant sounds (like a crying baby), and neutral sounds. The brain's auditory cortex, which processes sound, reacted similarly in subjects with and without misophonia. But in both the resting state and listening trials, people with misophonia showed stronger connections between the auditory cortex and brain regions that control movements of the face, mouth and throat. Kumar found this connection became most active in participants with misophonia when they heard triggers specific to the condition. © 2021 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 27955 - Posted: 08.21.2021

Allison Aubrey Imagine a sound that travels with you no matter where you go. Whether it's a ring, a whoosh or a crickets-like buzz, you can't escape it. "Mine was like this high-pitched sonic sound," says Elizabeth Fraser, who developed tinnitus last fall. It came on suddenly at a time when many people delayed doctor visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. "It just felt like an invasion in my head, so I was really distressed," Fraser recalls. Tinnitus is the perception of ringing when, in fact, no external sound is being produced. "You can equate it to a phantom sound," explains Sarah Sydlowski, a doctor of audiology at Cleveland Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 million Americans have chronic tinnitus. And studies show the pandemic ushered in both new cases and a worsening of the condition among people who already had it. The British Tinnitus Association reported a surge in the number of people accessing its services, including a 256% increase in the number of web chats amid the pandemic. Elizabeth Fraser started hearing a "high-pitched sonic sound" in her ears last fall. It came on suddenly at a time when many people delayed doctor visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. "It just felt like an invasion in my head, so I was really distressed," Fraser recalls. © 2021 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27877 - Posted: 06.26.2021

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. The dental hygienist greeted her longtime patient enthusiastically. Unexpectedly, the 68-year-old woman burst into tears. “I feel so bad,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I’m worried I might be dying.” She was always tired, as if all her energy had been sucked out. And she felt a strange dread that something awful was happening to her. And if that weren’t enough, for the past couple of weeks she had lost much of her hearing in her right ear. She was sure she had a brain tumor — though none of her doctors thought so. After offering sympathy, the dental assistant realized she had something more to offer: “We have a dental CT scanner. Should we get a CT of your head?” The patient was amazed. Yes — she would very much like a CT scan of her head. It would cost her $150, the technician told her. At that point, it seemed like a bargain. And, just like that, it was done. And there was a mass. It wasn’t on the right side, where she thought her trouble lay. It was on the left. And it wasn’t in her ear, but in the sinus behind her cheek. That was confusing. She thanked the tech for the scan. She had an ENT and would send the images to him to see what he thought. That right ear had been giving the patient trouble for more than 20 years, she reminded her ear, nose and throat doctor in Prescott, Ariz., when she spoke with him. In her 40s she developed terrible vertigo. She was living in Atlanta then and saw an ENT there who told her she probably had Ménière’s disease, a disorder induced by increased pressure in the inner ear. The cause is unknown, though in some cases it appears to run in families. And it’s characterized by intermittent episodes of vertigo usually accompanied by a sensation of fullness in the ear, as well as tinnitus and hearing loss. These symptoms can be present from the start, but often develop over time. There’s no definitive test for the disease, though evidence of the increased pressure is sometimes visible on an M.R.I. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27753 - Posted: 03.31.2021

By Carolyn Gramling The fin whale’s call is among the loudest in the ocean: It can even penetrate into Earth’s crust, a new study finds. Echoes in whale songs recorded by seismic instruments on the ocean floor reveal that the sound waves pass through layers of sediment and underlying rock. These songs can help probe the structure of the crust when more conventional survey methods are not available, researchers report in the Feb. 12 Science. Six songs, all from a single whale that sang as it swam, were analyzed by seismologists Václav Kuna of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and John Nábělek of Oregon State University in Corvallis. They recorded the songs, lasting from 2.5 to 4.9 hours, in 2012 and 2013 with a network of 54 ocean-bottom seismometers in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The songs of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) can be up to 189 decibels, as noisy as a large ship. Seismic instruments detect the sound waves of the song, just like they pick up pulses from earthquakes or from air guns used for ship-based surveys. The underwater sounds can also produce seismic echoes: When sound waves traveling through the water meet the ground, some of the waves’ energy converts into a seismic wave (SN: 9/17/20). Those seismic waves can help scientists “see” underground: As the penetrating waves bounce off different rock layers, researchers can estimate the thickness of the layers. Changes in the waves’ speed can also reveal what types of rocks the waves traveled through. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27686 - Posted: 02.13.2021

By Matthew Hutson Somehow, even in a room full of loud conversations, our brains can focus on a single voice in something called the cocktail party effect. But the louder it gets—or the older you are—the harder it is to do. Now, researchers may have figured out how to fix that—with a machine learning technique called the cone of silence. Computer scientists trained a neural network, which roughly mimics the brain’s wiring, to locate and separate the voices of several people speaking in a room. The network did so in part by measuring how long it took for the sounds to hit a cluster of microphones in the room’s center. When the researchers tested their setup with extremely loud background noise, they found that the cone of silence located two voices to within 3.7º of their sources, they reported this month at the online-only Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems. That compares with a sensitivity of only 11.5º for the previous state-of-the-art technology. When the researchers trained their new system on additional voices, it managed the same trick with eight voices—to a sensitivity of 6.3º—even if it had never heard more than four at once. Such a system could one day be used in hearing aids, surveillance setups, speakerphones, or laptops. The new technology, which can also track moving voices, might even make your Zoom calls easier, by separating out and silencing background noise, from vacuum cleaners to rambunctious children. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27628 - Posted: 12.19.2020

By Paula Span By now, we were supposed to be swiftly approaching the day when we could walk into a CVS or Walgreens, a Best Buy or Walmart, and walk out with a pair of quality, affordable hearing aids approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Hearing aids, a widely needed but dauntingly expensive investment, cost on average $4,700 a pair. (Most people need two.) So in 2017, Congress passed legislation allowing the devices to be sold directly to consumers, without a prescription from an audiologist. The next step was for the F.D.A. to issue draft regulations to establish safety and effectiveness benchmarks for these over-the-counter devices. Its deadline: August 2020. A public comment period would follow, and then — right about now — the agency would be preparing its final rule, to take effect in May 2021. So by next summer, people with what is known as “perceived mild to moderate hearing loss” might need to spend only one-quarter of today’s price or less, maybe far less. And then we could have turned down the TV volume and stopped making dinner reservations for 5:30 p.m., when restaurants are mostly empty and conversations are still audible. “These regulations are going to help a lot of people,” said Dr. Vinay Rathi, an otolaryngologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. “There could be great potential for innovation.” So, where are the new rules? This long-sought alternative to the current state of hearing aid services has been delayed, perhaps one more victim of the pandemic. Of course, the agency has other crucial matters to address just now. Although the office charged with hearing aid regulations is not the one assessing Covid-19 vaccines, an F.D.A. spokesman said via email that it was dealing with “an unprecedented volume of emergency use authorizations” for diagnostics, ventilators and personal protective equipment. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27626 - Posted: 12.15.2020