Entries in ears (5)


New Approach Could Relieve Ringing Ears

Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time, research suggests an approach that may yield a solution to tinnitus, a condition best known for buzzing or ringing in the ears.  A new study released Thursday in the journal Lancet offers evidence of an effective treatment for the nearly 16 million Americans who have sought medical attention for tinnitus.

"In extreme forms, patients are unable to function, go to work or other social events, and are deprived of enjoyment in life," said the study's primary investigator, Rilana Cima, a clinical psychiatrist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

In the study, 247 tinnitus patients received standard therapy, while 245 patients instead received treatment with specialized care involving an integrated multi-disciplinary team of audiologists, psychologists, speech therapists, movement therapists, physical therapists and social workers.  What the researchers found was that those patients treated by the multi-disciplinary team had improvements not only in tinnitus symptoms, but also in quality of life.

"The results of this trial are especially convincing and relevant for clinical practice," writes Dr. Berthold Langguth, associate professor of medicine at the University of Regensburg in Germany, in an editorial accompanying the new study.

"Specialized care was significantly better than usual care for the whole sample," continues Langguth.  "The researchers did not identify a new treatment -- rather, they identified the most useful treatments."

The new integrated, multi-disciplinary approach outlined in this study includes a combination of standard tests and medical evaluations in addition to a special type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

So why is cognitive behavior therapy so helpful?

"It's not the sound but the negative reaction to the sound that prevents suffers from habituating to it," Cima said.  "Once they hear it, it's very hard to divert their attention away... People get a fear reaction because they think something is wrong -- it becomes the attention-grabbing thing that prevents them from doing their normal activities."

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a way to redirect tinnitus sufferer's attention away from the fearful thoughts that often remind them of the ringing in their ears.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pedestrian Deaths Linked to Headphones Triples

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- The number of pedestrians seriously injured or killed while wearing headphones has tripled since 2004, a new study found.

Researchers from Baltimore scoured U.S. news archives and research databases for pedestrian injuries and deaths involving headphones over the last seven years.  They found 116 cases -- most involving men younger than 30 -- rising from 16 in the year ending in 2005 to 47 in the year ending in 2011.

“The risks posed by the use of these devices by drivers are well documented, but little is known about the association between headphone use and pedestrian injury,” the authors reported in the journal Injury Prevention. “Although causal relationships cannot be proven, we speculate on implications for pedestrian safety.”

With smart phones and MP3 players on the rise, more pedestrians are shutting out the sounds that keep them safe on the street.  About 70 percent of the collisions reported were fatal, with more than half of the victims being struck by trains.  In roughly one-third of the cases, horns or sirens sounded before the victim was hit, according to eyewitness reports.

“Two phenomena are likely contributors to the possible association between headphone use and pedestrian injury: distraction and sensory deprivation,” the authors wrote.

Previous studies have found that pedestrians are less cautious and more likely to engage in “risky crossing behavior” when wearing headphones or talking on cellphones.  And a 2010 study found pedestrians using cellphones took longer to cross the street, although the study failed to find the same link with MP3 players.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tinnitus: Phantom Noises Drive Sufferers to Distraction, Suicide

Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- An estimated 50 million Americans have some degree of tinnitus in one or both ears; 16 million of them have symptoms serious enough for them to see a doctor or hearing specialist.

As many as two million become so debilitated by the unrelenting ringing, hissing, chirping, clicking, whooshing or screeching, that they cannot carry out normal daily activities, their lives "essentially ruined," said Jennifer Born, an American Tinnitus Association spokeswoman in Portland, Ore.

Of 9,000 patients who have come to the tinnitus clinic at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, clinic director Billy Martin said he was aware of eight who committed suicide.  Most of the patients show up with insomnia, anxiety and depression, along with their tinnitus.

"The combination is extremely difficult to deal with," he said.  "The load this places on people is beyond what any human was designed to endure."

Because tinnitus is most often triggered by noise, it represents an enormous occupational hazard for musical performers, at least 60 percent of whom report it occasionally, according to a 2007 ATA survey.  Performers with tinnitus include rockers Neil Young, Eric Clapton and the Who's Pete Townshend, along with heavy metal's Ozzy Osbourne.

GIs constitute another tinnitus-plagued group, their cases triggered not just by the aural assault of exploding roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, but also by traumatic brain injuries suffered in those attacks, said Born, who traces her own tinnitus to "an Oasis concert when I was 15."

Although people typically associate tinnitus with deafness, it's actually a neurological problem that originates not in the ear, but in the brain, involving miscommunication between damaged sensory cells -- called hair cells, which line the cochlea, and the brain.  People with severe tinnitus typically hear noise that doesn't exist except to them, much like an amputee perceives phantom pain from a missing limb.

Because we live in an increasingly amplified world of turned-up car speakers, amplified concerts and iPod earbuds piping music directly into our ear canals, hearing experts warn about a flood of new cases in coming years, especially among the young and the wired.

One experimental approach that could hold promise for tinnitus sufferers has worked so far in animals and is being tested in a small human trial in Belgium.  It combines low-dose electrical brain stimulation through the vagus nerve with tones fed through ear phones.  Together, these "cancel out the tinnitus signal," said Born.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Getting Relief from Tinnitus May Be Mind Over Matter

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- While most people who have tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, do whatever they can to make the noise go away, new research suggests that acknowledging the sensation and learning to live with it can help decrease suffering.

Lead researcher Jennifer Gans, an assistant professor at the University of California at San Francisco says a technique called mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction helps people separate the ringing from the stress, anxiety and other negative emotions it often causes.

"Instead of pushing it away, it's dealing with what it is and experiencing it as a body sensation without the fear and depression that's creating the suffering," Gans said.

Mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction is modeled after mindfulness-based stress reduction, which previous studies have found to be effective in helping people deal with chronic pain and arthritis.  The tinnitus version is specifically designed to deal with those symptoms.

In Gans' study, participants learn the mindfulness techniques over an eight-week period.  So far, she said, it's been effective.  One participant told Gans in an email that before learning about the technique, he relied on white noise generators to alleviate his symptoms.

"We had a power failure last night just before I was going to bed, which meant my white noise generators would not work.  Before our study I would have gone into a complete panic thinking about going to bed without white noise," the participant wrote.  "But because of our sit down meditation in which we breathe into the ringing, I knew I could handle silence in bed.  Thank you, the study saved me from having a panic attack."

Experts in alternative medicine say the mindfulness techniques are becoming more popular remedies for a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, stress, itching, addiction and digestive disorders.

A report by researchers at Harvard Medical School released in May found that more than six million Americans are advised by traditional doctors to try meditation and other mind-body interventions.  For sicker patients, these unconventional approaches make them feel better physically and emotionally.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Elf Ears Are the Rage Among Quirky Teens

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The photos are pointedly striking -- young adults who have intentionally cut their ears to appear like those of elves or Star Trek's Spock.

The surgery is painful and irreversible. It's one body modification change, unlike a tattoo or a piercing, that you can't take back.

The unique and delicate procedure can leave you looking like one of Santa's elves. Numerous photos online show aficionados who appear to be thrilled with the results.

But once it's done, it's tough to turn back.

"It was just something I thought would be fascinating," said Jordan Houtz, who underwent surgery for her elf ears. "I wouldn't go as far as saying Trekie, but definitely Lord of the Rings -- all the sci-fi kind of stuff. It just fits my personality."

The "look" has been around since the 1960s television show, Star Trek, and has also been made famous by Liv Tyler's elfin look in Lord of the Rings. They've also made for some good comedy in HBO's, Bored to Death.

Some teens, especially on the West Coast, are actually going under the knife for real to have pointed ears, according to online reports.

Steve Haworth, a body modification artist from Tempe, Ariz., performs the procedure. He slices the top of the cartilage and then sews it back together in a point.

"There's a lot of people out there who have an inner vision of themselves and they want to express that to the world around them," said Haworth. "I'm very happy to be an artist that can provide that kind of work."

Raised in a family that manufactured and invented medical devices used in eye surgeries and plastic surgeries gave Haworth ideas for alternate forms of modifications.

The ear-pointing trend came to light in the most unlikely place -- AARP, the magazine for readers who are over 50.

"The trend goes back a few years," said Leslie Quander Wooldridge, a 28-year-old associate editor who writes AARP's column, Ah, Youth.

"When I did my research I found that body artists are doing it, like they were splitting tongues a few years ago," she said.

Good Morning America found many comments in online forums that were flip about the seriousness of the procedure.

"I want to have elf ears too.. but I'm not sure in what season to do it...cause in the winter I'm always wearing a cap/beanie and I guess it would hurt," said one.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio