Tag Archives: hearing

Hearing aids: do you hear what a FLY hears?

google free ormia ochraceaResearchers have created a new device that may be instrumental in creating the next generation of hearing aids. And the tiny animal that helped them do it? A fly.

Wondering what a fly has to do with hearing aids? Insects usually aren’t good at pinpointing the source of a sound because their bodies are so small that the sound hits both of their ears at just about the same time. But a certain fly- Ormia ochracea- has a unique sound-processing mechanism that adjusts for this, and the fly is incredibly accurate at determining the source of sounds.

Researchers have replicated the fly’s hearing mechanism in the form of a device that is only 2 mm wide. Many hearing aid users have problems sorting out noises, and this technology may be able to improve directional hearing aids and help users determine the direction of the sound much more accurately. Read more about it here:

http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/7821-fly-hearing-device

Do you hear what I hear?

pixabay earBy using a device that provides high-resolution images of the inner ear, researchers are learning about the mechanics of hearing. In order to develop therapies for hearing loss, it’s important to understand the functions of different areas of the cochlea, and until now, that hasn’t been very easy.

Because the cochlea is so small and difficult to access, researchers haven’t been able to study it very easily without causing damage to the ear. But by using this technology (OCT, or optical coherence tomography), researchers at Texas A&M and Stanford have been able to gather information about the way the cochlea converts vibrations into nerve impulses to create sound without having to open the bone around it.

The concept has been proven in mice, and researchers have been able to gather measurements without causing any damage to the mouse cochlea or surrounding tissues. A prototype device has been developed for human use. If researchers can map the human cochlea and determine what happens to the inner ear during progressive or traumatic loss, it’s possible that specific therapies for hearing loss will be able to be developed! Read more about it here:

http://engineering.tamu.edu/news/2014/07/07/applegate-inner-ear

Hearing loss linked to a clock!

iStock_000014889492SmallDon’t worry, your alarm clock probably isn’t causing hearing loss. Well, at least not during the day! Let me explain. You probably know that your sleep patterns, hormone levels, body temperature, and immune system are affected by circadian rhythms, which are controlled by biological clocks. Circadian rhythms have also been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolism, and depression- and new research shows a potential link to hearing loss.

Researchers at the Karolinsksa Institutet in Stockholm have discovered that there is a biological clock in the ear, controlled by genes that regulate circadian rhythms. Through research in mice, they found that higher noise levels during the night resulted in permanent hearing damage, but the same noise levels during the day didn’t affect their hearing.

There is a growth hormone (called BDNF) that protects auditory nerve cells. These levels fluctuate through the day, regulated by your ‘ear clock.’ BDNF levels were lower at night, so the mice were more prone to hearing damage. But by stimulating BDNF levels at night, researchers were able to protect hearing during noise exposure!

This is an important discovery. Many people work in professions that expose them to higher noise levels at night, and understanding the mechanisms behind protecting hearing could help researchers develop new treatments for hearing loss. Read more about it here:

http://news.cision.com/karolinska-institutet/r/new-discovery-paves-the-way-for-medicine-for-people-with-hearing-disabilities,c9540948