- Often seems to “ignore” people, especially if engrossed.
- Hears less well, or is less attentive/productive, in ordinarily busy surroundings.
- Difficulty following a series of spoken directions.
- Unusually forgetful of information previously memorized (such as multiplication tables, correct spelling), or of household or school routines and responsibilities, despite frequent reminders.
There are several instances in which you might worry that you’ve suddenly gone deaf. When water gets in your ears while you’re in the shower, it can create a blockage a prevent sound waves from entering. Similarly, blocked sinuses as a result of sinus infections and allergies can shut the Eustachian tube close and suck fluid into the ear space. But you’ll know that you have ear damage or hearing loss when your rings ear even after moving away from its source. Fortunately, it is this kind of hearing loss that science might be able to reverse.
Regenerating Hair Cells
Before learning the methods for reversing hearing loss, it is first important to understand how your sense of hearing works. There are thousands of sensory hairs inside your ears. These are attached to the cochlea, a structure shaped like a snail through which sound waves travel. These hairs convert sound vibrations into electrical signals which are then sent to your brain for interpretation. In mammals, these cells cannot regenerate on their own after getting damaged, which leads to hearing loss.
In 2013, researchers from the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary were able to demonstrate how to regenerate the tiny hairs inside the ears of an adult mammal. They said that replacing the hair cells led to a significant improvement in hearing. The study shows a lot of promise, prompting further research in order to come up with a solution for reversing hearing loss in humans.
The research involved the use of a certain drug which had been shown previously to regenerate hair cells when they are added to stem cells. The drug inhibits chain reactions in cells caused by the enzyme, gamma-secretase. More importantly, the drug inhibits the expression of Notch, allowing adjacent cells to effectively communicate with each other.
The drug was applied to the cochlea of deaf mice. What happened was that the supporting cells around the hair cells turned into hair cells themselves. These new hair cells improved the mice’s hearing specifically in the area treated by the drug.
These results are considered a breakthrough in the field, demonstrating that there’s a way to regenerate hair cells in mammals. The researchers are confident that with more studies, the development of a drug with therapeutic applications in deafness will be within arm’s reach.
Other Ways To Reverse Hearing Loss
Aside from testing different drugs and improving hearing aids, there are more methods being explored that might be able to reverse deafness. One is gene therapy, which has surged in popularity over the years, thanks to the successful mapping of the human genome. In theory, a defective or degenerative gene can be replaced using gene therapy. It has been shown to restore hearing in mice, although the therapy comes with a few risks.
Another method that doesn’t get as much press is viral therapy. Just the term itself sounds peculiar and silly, but various studies were able to prove that the therapy deserves merit. Viral therapy involves the use of a genetically modified virus. This virus will then attack defective hair cells and correct them in the process.
Protect Your Ears From Everyday Noisemakers
While there have been significant advancements in the attempt to reverse hearing loss, it is still best to practice precautionary measures and protect your ears from any kind of ear damage. Remember that 85 decibels is considered the safe-volume threshold. There are numerous household items that exceed this level including the hair dryer, lawn mower and coffee grinders. You should also be careful when using any gadget you can plug your headphones into. By practicing these simple lifestyle fixes, you can turn the volume back up and minimize your risk of hearing loss.
AIT can help people with hyperacusis (unusual sensitivity to specific sounds) and certain other problems associated with CAPD. Hyperacusis may accompany CAPD, learning disability, ADD, injury, or disorders of the autism spectrum. Symptoms include:
Marked discomfort, aversion, or startle to ordinary sounds the rest of us tolerate (hair dryers, vacuums, other children crying or shrieking, loud movies or shows, reverberant crowd situations)
Distraction and inability to concentrate on work due to very soft, distant sounds most people don’t notice
Striking behavior changes (coming “unglued” or “unavailable”) when noise levels become high (parties, school assemblies, indoor sports events, etc.)
Here are examples of other features of CAPD where AIT has helped in my caseload:
Problems functioning in noisy classrooms or offices that are not solved by accommodations like preferential seating or FM amplification.
Slow processing speed, limiting ability to clearly discern normal-paced speech for long periods, affecting social relations on the playground, or slowing progress in speech/language therapy.
Some difficulties with language perception or accessing which do not respond to skilled teaching and therapy.
Poor working memory that has limited ability to stay on task attend to details, or recall basic facts and routines.
How can AIT (Auditory Integration Training) help?
It has now been scientifically confirmed that highly repetitive stimulation done intensively over a short period of time can train the brain to do certain jobs that it couldn’t do as well under ordinary conditions. AIT uses a ten-day, twenty half-hour program of modulated music, individually filtered for each person’s sound sensitivities, to accomplish this stimulation of the auditory system.
AIT is almost unique among therapies in its ability to reduce the highly distracting, sometimes even painful, inability to temper or moderate the sound brought in by the ear. (In parallel, imagine how it would feel if your pupil couldn’t constrict to protect you from bright light.)
Unlike most other music therapies, the painful frequencies are filtered out. This makes it a very kind therapy, unlike crude attempts to “desensitize” the person through the noxious noise.
AIT is training the auditory system, and thus addresses the CAPD component in a variety of disorders. These may include LD (learning disabilities) and ADD (attention deficit disorder).
To read about a mother’s experience with AIT for her autistic child, go to the Connor’s Corner website including Ms. Paton’s explanation.
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