Tinnitus sufferers sought for NIH trial

National Institutes of Health researchers are launching a clinical trial to test a device that seeks to rewire parts of the brain in hopes of reducing or eliminating tinnitus, a persistent buzzing or ringing in the ears in the absence of any real sound.

The small clinical trial is recruiting volunteers and will be conducted at three centers – at the University of Texas at Dallas, the University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo and at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. An additional site will be added later in the year. More information about the trial and enrollment is available on the study’s website, http://www.tinnitustrial.com, or at http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

Roughly 10 percent of the adult population of the United States has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year, and approximately 10 million have been bothered enough by the condition to seek a doctor. Although tinnitus may be only an annoyance for some, for others the relentless ringing causes fatigue, depression, anxiety, and problems with memory and concentration. Available treatments help some people cope, but current therapies lack the potential to significantly reduce the bothersome symptoms of tinnitus.

Article source: http://blog.startribune.com/tinnitus-sufferers-sought-for-nih-trial/248855351/

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Like Bats, We Use Both Sides of Brain to Listen

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center and American University have shown that, like humans, some bats use the left and right sides of their brains to process different aspects of sounds. According to the researchers, no other animal that has been studied has proved to use such hemispheric specialization for sound processing—not even monkeys or apes. As described in an April 27, 2015 study article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, for humans and certain bats, the left brain is better at processing fast sounds, and the right brain is better at processing slow ones.

According to a recent announcement from Georgetown, the study authors believe their investigation of how bats process sound may provide insights into human language disorders.

“These findings upset the notion that only humans use different sides of their brains to distinguish different aspects of sound,” said the study’s senior author, Stuart D. Washington, PhD, a neuroscientist at Georgetown. Washington said the findings of asymmetrical sound processing in both human and bat brains make evolutionary sense.

“The slower timing of the right hemisphere may allow us to identify who is speaking, to gauge their emotional state via tone-of-voice and to tease out pitch in music, which is thought to be important for getting groups of people to coordinate their activities and can ultimately lead to the formation of cultures,” Washington said in the announcement. “It is therefore reasonable to understand why humans needed to evolve this asymmetry in their brains.”

The mustached bat from Brazil, or Pteronotus parnellii, needs to use the fast timing of the brain’s left hemisphere to distinguish different communication sounds of different frequencies, according to Washington. Otherwise, the bat cannot communicate with other bats.

“The bats also need to use the slow timing of the right hemisphere to use sonar—which relies on detecting small changes in frequency—to track the velocity of the fast-moving insects they fly after and eat,” Washington explained.

This asymmetric sampling in bats is sex-dependent (males have more asymmetry than females), which is also consistent with humans, the researchers report. They say that in humans, women tend to use both the left and right hemispheres for language, while men largely use just the left hemisphere. “Since this asymmetric sound processing is the basis for left hemispheric specialization for language, it too is assumed to be more common in men than in women,” said Washington. “Our results in bats may spur research to confirm that assumption in humans.”

The co-author of the study article is John S. Tillinghast, PhD, of the department of mathematics and statistics at American University.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center

Photo credit: © Kruglovorda | Dreamstime.com

Article source: http://www.hearingreview.com/2015/05/like-bats-use-sides-brain-listen/

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Deadline extended for free hearing aids contest

Posted: Friday, May 1, 2015 10:00 am

Deadline extended for free hearing aids contest

Physicians Hearing Center and the Dothan Eagle are holding its annual hearing aid contest, which will provide a set of free hearing devices to the winner. The deadline for entries has been extended to Friday, May 15.

To enter: Write a short essay explaining why you or someone you know needs a set of hearing aids. Only Wiregrass residents can qualify to win the devices.

Contestants must be available to come to Physicians Hearing Center in Dothan for a free hearing test to determine the extent of hearing loss. Please include the name and telephone number for the contestant or a point of contact with the essay.

Submit essays to: Peggy Ussery, Dothan Eagle, 227 N. Oates St., Dothan, AL 36303 or [email protected]


Friday, May 1, 2015 10:00 am.

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Article source: http://www.dothaneagle.com/lifestyles/local/deadline-extended-for-free-hearing-aids-contest/article_32f37854-eded-11e4-b74b-f33dafa5a64f.html

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Researchers identify brain network responsible for tinnitus


This is a 3-D image of the left brain hemisphere of a patient with tinnitus (right) and the part of that hemisphere containing primary auditory cortex (left). Black dots indicate all the sites recorded from. Colored circles indicate electrodes at which the strength of ongoing brain activity correlated with the current strength of tinnitus perceived by the patient. Different colors indicate different frequencies of brain activity (blue = low, magenta = middle, orange = high) whose strength changed alongside tinnitus. Green squares indicate sites where the interaction between these different frequencies changed alongside changes in tinnitus. (Image: Sedley, W et al.)

Tinnitus, a noise or ringing in the head or ear, affects an extensive network of the brain— not just its auditory region— a finding that may allow for more effective treatments in the future, reveals a study published Thursday in Current Biology.

Researchers Phillip Gander, of University of Iowa, and William Sedley, of Newcastle University in the U.K., had the rare opportunity to record directly from the brain of a person with tinnitus to find the brain networks responsible for the condition, in which there is the perception of sound in the absence of an external source.

While most people experience intermittent tinnitus at some point, and hearing loss with age is normal, chronic tinnitus affects about 10 to 15 percent of the population. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2013 data, tinnitus is also the No. 1 service-related compensation for veterans. The most prevalent disability among this group, the condition affects about 1,121,710 veterans.

The causes of tinnitus are variable, acquired throughout a person’s lifetime, and typically result from noise trauma.

“This is a big deal because tinnitus currently has no cure and no real effective treatment, probably in large part because it’s so variable in terms of, across different people that they experience it differently and across different people they react differently,” Gander told FoxNews.com.

Finding a proper participant for their study was serendipitous, researchers noted. In this case, the 50-year-old male subject had bilateral tinnitus affecting both ears, he heard a single, high-frequency tone—  rather than a rushing, white noise— and he already had hearing loss.

“If we were to generalize across the population of people studied, this seems to be more typical,” Gander said.

To study the subject’s tinnitus-linked brain activity, researchers tried to temporarily suppress the chronic sound by playing a loud noise for 30 seconds. After turning off the external noise, tinnitus can get quieter or go away for a brief period of time. Researchers then looked at brain scans of when the subject’s tinnitus went away and compared them to times when he experienced no change.

Researchers said they were fortunate because the same noise seemed to randomly make his tinnitus get quieter half the time, and didn’t for the other half— making the man his own control subject.

“That’s why our experiment was really powerful: because it controls for all those other factors related to tinnitus— attention, fatigue— across different experiment conditions. If [the subject] was tired, he was tired across both conditions,” said Gander, who noted that this characteristic prevented confounding factors from impacting the study results.

By directly recording brain activity, researchers were able to conclude that tinnitus affects a large expanse of the brain— not just the sound areas— including regions related to emotions, memory and mood.

“What we’re hoping is that the details of the brain networks and brain mechanisms we highlight in our paper can be starting points that people could target [for treatment],” Gander said.

One of the most effective treatments for individuals with tinnitus-induced distress is psychological treatment, Gander said. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people cope with how to think about and how to ignore their tinnitus— not with changing or getting rid of the sound. However, there is no cure for tinnitus.

Past theories hypothesized that tinnitus only affected the auditory part of the brain and perhaps regions of hearing loss, but this new research shows that tinnitus processes in the brain differently from the way we normally hear or process sound. This explains why current treatments aren’t effective, Gander said.

“Our study definitely highlights why so many treatments have been ineffective so far because we’re trying to target one of these brain regions, but what seems to be the case is that it actually is going to need to involve a bunch of areas at the same time,” Gander said. “If that’s right, [treatment] will be very difficult, very complicated.”

The man was a patient of the University of Iowa’s  Iowa Comprehensive Epilepsy Program (ICEP), which offers surgical treatment for its most serious patients. That surgery involves removing the part of the brain that causes epileptic seizures. To remove the minimal amount of brain tissue, doctors implant electrodes in and on the surface of the brain to record where seizures are generated. The patients must wait at the hospital until their next seizure, so in the meantime, scientists from the university may recruit them to voluntarily help out with other research.

“It is such a rarity that a person requiring invasive electrode monitoring for epilepsy also has tinnitus that we aim to study every such person if they are willing,” Gander said.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/04/23/researchers-identify-brain-network-responsible-for-tinnitus/

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Tinnitus Leave A Familiar Ringing In Your Ears? Now Researchers Know Why It …

ear illo

Tinnitus affects one in five Americans. Researchers now know why the phantom ringing-ear condition is so hard to treat after conducting invasive brain scans. The drawing is from Alvin Davison’s “The Human Body and Health.”
of 2
(Photo : Sue Clark | Flickr)


Tinnitus affects one in five Americans. Researchers now know why the condition is so hard to treat after conducting invasive brain scans. of 2
(Photo : Orin Zebest | Flickr)

Tinnitus is a common medical symptom marked by a persistent ringing in ears, one which can be brought about through a number of different causes, including disease or injuries. Now, after mapping out the brain networks involved in producing the phantom sounds, researchers believe they know why the problem is so difficult to treat.

University of Iowa researchers employed a brain-monitoring technique usually used during surgery to treat epilepsy to map the process of tinnitus.

Investigators taking part in the study measured brain activity during bouts of tinnitus, comparing stronger and weaker occurrences of the condition. They also measured these results against brain patterns seen when the volunteers were exposed to a sound meant to mimic the symptom.

“Perhaps the most remarkable finding was that activity directly linked to tinnitus was very extensive and spanned a large proportion of the part of the brain we measured from. In contrast, the brain responses to a sound we played that mimicked [the subject’s] tinnitus were localized to just a tiny area,” said Will Sedley from Newcastle University in England.

The research suggests that tinnitus not only fills in the sounds missing after hearing damage, but also spreads into other areas of the brain. Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that is often described as ringing, but that isn’t really there.

“This has profound implications for the understanding and treatment of tinnitus, as we now know it is not encoded like normal sound, and may not be treatable by just targeting a localized part of the hearing system,” Phillip Gander from the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa said.

The University of Iowa is one of the few locations equipped to carry out such brain monitoring. Roughly one in five people suffers from some degree of tinnitus, but finding patients who are both undergoing epilepsy treatment with the invasive brain sensors and who suffer from tinnitus is difficult. A 50-year-old man who experienced ringing in both ears following hearing loss was examined in the study.

This study reveals new information on why tinnitus is so hard to treat. Because so many pathways in the brain are activated by the condition – not just those that “hear” the sound – it can be difficult for medicines or other treatments to reduce the symptom.

Neurofeedback, in which patients learn to control their brainwaves, is often utilized to control the persistent ringing. The condition is usually just irritating to people experiencing tinnitus, but in extreme cases, it can become debilitating. Many patients can suffer depression, anxiety and anger from continued ringing in their ears, which may be treated through drugs, psychological coaching, sound therapy or with hearing aids.

Study of brain pathways activated by tinnitus was detailed in the journal Current Biology.

Photo: Sue Clark | Flickr

Article source: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/48688/20150424/tinnitus-leave-familiar-ringing-ears-researchers-know-why-hard-treat.htm

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Van den Bergh to Helm Clarity

Jamie van den Bergh

Jamie van den Bergh, president, Clarity.

Clarity, a division of Plantronics based in Chattanooga, Tenn, announced that Jamie van den Bergh, a telecommunications industry veteran with nearly 30 years of experience, has been selected as the company’s new president. He has served as Clarity’s vice president of sales and marketing since 2007. Clarity reports that van den Bergh was selected as president following Plantronics’ completion of a nationwide executive search which identified a deep pool of qualified candidates. Van den Bergh will succeed Carsten Trads, who is retiring after more than a decade at the helm of Clarity.

“Jamie is a tremendous leader who not only knows the market and has a wealth of experience in the consumer electronics and telecommunications space, but he has a deep understanding of the people Clarity serves—the aging consumer,” said Joe Burton, Plantronics’ executive vice president and chief technology officer. “Previously, as Clarity’s vice president of marketing and sales, Jamie spearheaded a series of industry firsts that helped grow the business into the market leader it is today. We are excited about Jamie’s vision for the company, and we’re confident the quality of life for millions of people across the US will be improved because of what Clarity will accomplish in the years ahead.”

Before assuming his new role as Clarity’s president, van den Bergh served as vice president of sales and marketing, and helped launch several groundbreaking products for the company, including the first cellphone exclusively for seniors and ClarityLife, a caregiver communications platform. He also formed a series of successful strategic product development and channel partnerships for Clarity.

“I am honored to serve as the president of Clarity at a time when the need for our products and services is more important than ever before as America ages,” said van den Bergh. “I’ve had the great opportunity to work with Carsten and our incredible team here in Chattanooga, a city that is bursting with innovation. We will look to build off of our successes, stay on the leading edge of technology for seniors, and remain unwavering in our pursuit of making the world a better place for older adults and their families.”

Prior to joining Clarity, van den Bergh held director and vice president positions at Motorola and Giant International. He was tapped to launch Motorola’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) Energy Products business in 1995 and subsequently led the international operations for Motorola’s consumer products division, according to Clarity.

As a member of the American Society on Aging‘s business forum, van den Bergh is working with its 5,000 plus members to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families. Away from the office, van den Bergh is an avid triathlete, having completed in 12 ironman competitions. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

Source: Clarity

Article source: http://www.hearingreview.com/2015/04/van-den-bergh-named-president-clarity/

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Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act Approved by Congress

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (HR 2) was overwhelmingly approved on a 92-8 vote in the US Senate on Tuesday, April 14. HR 2, which passed the House of Representatives on March 26, permanently repeals the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and now goes to President Obama who has stated he will sign the bill.

The SGR, enacted in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act, has been reviled by physicians and healthcare groups who serve Medicare beneficiaries and for the beneficiaries themselves, according to the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. SGR has been widely regarded as an imperfect solution that rewards quantity of services rather than the quality of care, and Congress almost invariably staves off the payment cuts for physicians threatened by the SGR formula via last-minute legislative “patches.” There have been 17 patches over the last 12 years, and the vote on Tuesday prevented a 21% reduction in Medicare payments.

HR 2 amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to repeal the SGR and strengthen Medicare access by improving physician payments and making other improvements, as well as reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, the Senate failed to pass an amendment proposed by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) that would have permanently repealed Medicare’s Part B outpatient therapy caps, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Although the amendment had bipartisan support, it failed on a procedural vote (58-42) that was related to the budget and that the amendment needed to be paid for. A total of 60 votes were needed to pass the amendment.

As passed, HR 2 will extend a modified therapy cap exceptions process through 2017. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, vowed to work for permanent solution to the therapy caps in the coming years.

According to the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) website, HR 2 will:

  • Erase all future SGR cuts and ensure a 5-year period of annual updates of 0.5% to transition to the new payment system;
  • Provide additional financial incentives for providers who move into alternative payment models (APMs);
  • Harmonize and streamline existing Medicare quality reporting programs into the Merit-Based Payment Incentive System (MIPS);
  • Reverse CMS’s decision to eliminate the use of 10- and 90–day global surgical codes in Medicare.
  • Prevent further delays in ICD-10 implementation.

Importantly, the SGR repeal is seen by ICD-10 proponents as the fulfillment of a major objective. In 2014, there was a last-minute delay of ICD-10 that was slipped into SGR legislation, putting off implementation of the new code set until October 1, 2015. Although six amendments were voted on during the most recent Senate debate, none included language that impacts ICD-10. ADA says it anticipates that ICD-10 will be implemented as scheduled on October 1.

HR 2 also is said to consolidate various reporting programs, such as the “meaningful use” Electronic Health Record Incentive Program and other quality reporting programs, into a new merit-based incentive payment system, encouraging physicians to participate in alternative payment models, such as accountable care organizations or ACOs (for more information on changes in physician reimbursement and healthcare, see the article by Taylor et al, “Interventional Audiology, Part 3: Changes in Primary Care and Health Belief Systems Are Opportunities for Hearing Healthcare,” in the December 2014 edition of The Hearing Review).

Article source: http://www.hearingreview.com/2015/04/medicare-access-chip-reauthorization-act-approved-congress/

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