April 5, 2011 Audiology

Audiology In Brief

Hearing and Dementia 

A Johns Hopkins-National Institute on Aging study finds that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a discovery that could lead to new ways to combat dementia.

Investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both conditions or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia because hearing loss may lead to social isolation, a known risk factor for dementia.

The finding may offer a starting point for interventions—even as simple as hearing aids—that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.

Participants with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end; the degree of hearing loss was correlated with their likelihood of developing dementia, even after accounting for other dementia risk factors. Search “incident dementia” at the Archives of Neurology.

Colds and Ear Infections 

More than 20% of young children with colds or other respiratory viral infections will develop middle ear infections, according to a University of Texas at Galveston study. In the prospective study, researchers analyzed acute otitis media (AOM) that developed after upper respiratory viral infections (cold or flu) in 294 children, ages 6 months to 3 years.

Overall, 22% of the children developed AOM during the first week of a respiratory infection. Another 7% had eardrum inflammation without fluid in the middle ear. Inflammation ranged from mild to severe; 54% of the 126 children who had AOM in both ears had different levels of severity between ears.

Of 28 children with mild AOM, 24 got better without antibiotics. Four got worse, and three eventually required antibiotics. Study findings suggest that many children with mild AOM can be managed without antibiotics. Results also may help in the development of a clinical score to differentiate children who require antibiotics from those who do not. Visit the Pediatric Infection Disease Journal online.

VA Audiology Telepractice Grants Are Available 

Grants are available to explore using audiology telepractice services for veterans who live far from medical centers. Public and private companies, entrepreneurs, universities, and non-profits may apply through the 2011 Industry Innovation Competition. Up to $100 million could be awarded in this Veterans Administration competition to improve health care quality for veterans in five categories.

Hearing loss and tinnitus—two of the three most common service-connected disabilities for all veterans, according to the program announcement—require most veterans receiving care in this area to make multiple trips to a VA medical center that provides audiology services, creating a burden on veterans traveling long distances. VA is seeking solutions to allow for the remote assessment of hearing through telemedicine. For more information, visit the Veterans Administration's website.


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