Articles Posted in Deafness

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The World Federation of the Deaf recognizes the Week of September 19-25 as International Week of Deaf People.  This year’s theme is Building Inclusive Communities for All.  Approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. are deaf or profoundly hearing impaired.   Approximately 11 million people in the U.S. are hard of hearing.

Studies show that the deaf population tends to be publicly insured, less likely to be covered by private insurance, have less education, lower family incomes and more likely to be unemployed.  There are two main types of hearing loss:  conductive hearing loss which is due to a blockage in the ear that stops sound from reaching the inner ear;  and sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or cochlea.  Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured.  Improvement in cochlear implants however have improved hearing for many with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.

A hearing loss that is not treated with a cochlear implants meets Medical Listing 2.10  if hearing tests meet or exceed the required hearing decibels.  For hearing loss treated with a cochlear implant (Medical Listing 2.12) disability will be considered for one year after the initial implant and subsequent years if hearing loss word recognition falls at 60 percent or below.   Cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but they do give a deaf person a useful representation of environmental sound.

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Researchers claim to have developed a tool that could, in the future, help create specific cells to reverse deafness or hearing loss.  The dramatic breakthrough could in the future mean the elimination of a major problem in the fight to discover a tool to reverse deafness.

Hearing loss is a problem for many Americans, and a major factor in disability claims.  It is estimated that as many as 9% of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The percentage increases to 25% among persons between the age of 65 and 74.

The most common cause of hearing loss is the death of hair cells.  These cells do not reproduce, and they are generated at the embryo stage. As a result, scientists have struggled with replicating these cells in order to circumvent or reverse hearing loss.  However, researchers recently discovered a master gene that could help them create these specific cells. According to the scientists, this is a major breakthrough because the master gene will help them create the specific inner or outer cells needed to reverse deafness.

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Women who are on hormone replacement therapy may be at a much higher risk of deafness. According to a new study, while menopause at an older age is already a high risk factor for hearing problems, hormone replacement therapy seems to exacerbate those risks.

Researchers have always known that women are at a high risk of suffering from hearing loss after menopause. Natural hormonal levels decline during this period of time, and doctors earlier believed that providing hormone replacement therapy could help protect menopausal women against hearing loss linked to menopause. The researchers in the new study found that women who used hormone therapy actually had higher risks of hearing issues. In fact, the risk increased with the duration of time that the woman was on hormone therapy. The longer the duration of the hormone replacement therapy, the greater the deafness risk.

The findings of the study come from an analysis of more than 81,000 women in the United States. The researchers are quick to point out that the results are not evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between hormone driven therapy and a heightened deafness risk.

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