EIC Social Media Team
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Cilia are hair-like follicles found throughout various parts of the body, including the ears. They act as little antennae, alerting the body to environmental changes. Researchers now have new insight on these unique structures thanks to recent experiments designed to discover which molecules are allowed access to the cilia.
It was found that the cilia have a larger than anticipated access area, allowing entry of a far greater amount of protein than previously believed was possible. Cilia themselves will only allow proteins needed for their particular function to stay after entering – while 9 out of 10 proteins will fit into the cilia, most are kicked out as they don’t match the cell’s needs. Thus researchers only ever find certain proteins in a particular cilium.
Each individual cilium performs its function by acquiring data on its surroundings and then passing that information on to the cell by utilizing the protein signals stored in its hollow center. This recent study has revealed information about the way cilia collect the proteins needed to send these messages.
When cilia have defects it can result in a wide range of problems, depending on the location of the cilia that are damaged – hearing loss, kidney disease and vision problems can all be the result of damaged cilia in those parts of the body. Cilia perform unique functions in each part of the body, but it is always in connection with surrounding data. For example, in the eye cilia perform the function of wavelength detection, which is vital in being able to see a full spectrum of colors. Each type of cilia provides a messenger service that allows cells to react appropriately to their surroundings.
Cilia will produce larger amounts of certain proteins, alerting cells to how they should respond. Each cilium has a hole at its base allowing these messenger proteins in, yet there appears to be nothing seems in place to keep other proteins out. Scientists used to believe it was a simple matter of how tiny the hole was, but new research shows the entry point to be ten times the expected size. Therefore, essentially any size molecule can find its way into cilia, although the smaller the molecule the faster it can do so. Now researchers want to try and discern how cilia determine which proteins to keep and which to release.
The implication is that conditions such as hearing and vision loss could be better combated once the functioning of cilia is fully understood.
Have you ever had your headphones plugged into your phone or tablet and had a warning appear as you raise the volume? You may want to heed the warning – researchers are finding that our hearing can be affected greatly by listening to our headphones too loudly. It’s a common practice since so many work, exercise, and perform other tasks using portable MP3 players and other music-containing devices. But just what effect can this have on your hearing?
The fact is that you don’t even have to crank the volume up all that high. If you pour music directly into your ears at a moderately loud volume while in a noisy situation for an extended amount of time, you are causing neurophysiological changes that may ultimately affect your ability to discriminate between sounds.
You won’t be able to ascertain whether or not you’ve been affected by this from a regular hearing test as you will still hear a tone in the midst of complete silence. Such headphone use only affects the ability to pick out specific sounds from a cacophony of background sounds. This may lead researchers to try and develop new hearing tests for those who are frequent earbud users.
The way such tests were performed was by using devices that measured brain activity rather than auditory response. Two groups of young people were studied, half of them headphone users, half of them not. The test involved picking up background sounds while watching a movie. The group of headphone users showed less mental reaction to background noise, while both groups tested equally in standard hearing tests, indicating that only the ability to pick out specific sounds within the background of a noisy environment was affected.
What does this research mean for those who use headphones? While there is nothing wrong with using headphones in a quiet environment (say to avoid waking others at night), you are encouraged to avoid cranking up the volume to drown out background noise (for example, at the gym or on public transportation). There are many noise-dampening devices that can block out background noise without the need for other sounds to drown it out – this is a far safer method of coping with noise pollution.
A sinus headache can be one of the most debilitating consequences of suffering from sinus problems. If you suffer from chronic sinus issues you may well have made repeat trips to the doctor – here are a few tips on effective ways to curb the pain a little without having to leave home.
Some people experience sinus issues due to dry air conditions – if this is the case for you a humidifier may help. These add moisture to air, especially useful when it is particularly dry in the wintertime. If you can’t afford a humidifier or are not sure if one would help you, try running hot water in the shower and hanging out in the bathroom as it steams up. If this helps relieve some of the pressure, a humidifier would be a great investment.
Another possible solution is a sinus rinse. You have likely seen Neti pots or other sinus rinse delivery methods – these are simple, daily use relief methods. Be sure to read the package carefully and follow all cautions, such as not using tap water which can contain dangerous bacteria.
Saline nasal sprays can loosen mucus in the nasal cavity, so if you constantly fight with feeling stuffy this may help relieve some of your symptoms – since these are essentially just salt water you can use them several times a day without any harmful side effects. Decongestant nasal sprays cannot be used as frequently and prolonged use may actually worsen you problem, so be careful with these.
Old school airlines had it right in first class – a warm compress can do a lot for relaxation! It can also relieve some sinus pressure and help with your headache – just refresh the warm water when the compress starts to cool. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help too, especially ones that have anti-inflammatory properties -these will reduce sinus swelling and may at least take the edge off the pain, allowing you to function more normally.
Remember, none of these are cures for your sinus problems, and they may not completely ensure you avoid a visit to the doctor. They can’t cure an infection (that’s what antibiotics are for), but hopefully these are just a few ways you can get the relief you need on a day-to-day basis.
Research has been undertaken to identify the cells that ultimately produce inner ear hair cells, allowing us to hear properly – what is the implication of this discovery? It is hoped that this will allow for further study that could in turn lead to more effective treatment for the many types of inner ear problems that affect the hearing of millions of people.
When hair cells are damaged in mammals they are not regenerated by the body as many other types of cells are – the result is that hearing damage has always been considered permanent. This is in contrast to other types of animals like fish and birds whose inner ear cells can self-repair. Identification of the cells that give rise to specialized hearing cells should allow for future research that may be able to determine how they work, how damage could be repaired, and hearing restored.
The inner ear (cochlea) is shaped much like a shell, and the cells contained therein (hair cells) are very specialized in how they function – the shape of the ear and design of these cells combine in a way that allows the human ear to gather sound in a very unique manner. The hair cells vibrate in response to sounds much like grain blowing in the breeze, and these vibrations are then translated in the brain.
Approximately one fifth of those living in America (closer to one third amongst senior citizens) experience hearing loss to some degree – hearing aids are a common form of treatment, as are cochlear implants. The fact is however that both of these treatments only fight the symptoms of hearing loss – not the cause, hair cell damage.
It is hoped that current research on the cells that form hair cells will lead to development of new ways to regenerate such cells and attack hearing loss at its source – this is therefore one direction continued research on the subject is expected to take.
Some KSU faculty members are responsible for helping treat kids with APD (auditory processing disorder); a condition which involves difficulties in processing sound waves entering through the ears. Based on sets of data they have gathered, the team uses methods that have produced similar positive results. The team includes not only staff, but also a few graduate students too.
Kids with APD sometimes go undiagnosed because in hearing tests they may do just fine – sounds may register well, or a sound may at least be heard, while words on the other hand may be processed in the mind as a garbled mess. Thus these children are effectively non-hearing, despite the fact that their ears work perfectly – it is the brain that is not performing its function in not processing sounds correctly.
So how are these children being helped? Understanding sounds that enter through the ear is a skill – the faculty is teaching kids skills that will help their brains learn to understand sounds heard. Pathologists in the fields of speech and hearing are now involved in the process of helping kids with APD, while in the past this fell squarely on the shoulders of audiologists, which isn’t entirely fair considering the fact that the problem is not with hearing ability itself but processing of sound.
Seven children between the ages of 8 and 14 have already been part of the program, in which a screening test helps the team determine the specific needs of each child, allowing them to tailor it specifically to their needs. What are some of the activities undertaken in the hour-long weekly sessions?
Firstly, training is given in phonetics, an important skill in enabling the brain to translate speech properly. Another training session involves pitting words against background noises, training the brain to pick out speech from other sounds in the environment. Finally, the focus shifts to phonemic synthesis – this involves putting the sounds together, and then differentiating between them to distinguish complete sounds from one another.
At the end of the program a follow-up test takes place to evaluate the progress that has been made. The results thus far have been promising – every child that has been in the program has seen improvement in each area focused on, and no worsening of the condition in areas that have not been treated. With this established the program is continuing, and perhaps other organizations will also begin to adopt this method of treatment.
A microbe found underwater has been determined by researchers as a potential cure for sinusitis. Bacillus licheniformis is an enzyme that comes from seaweed. Initially the researchers were looking for a more efficient way to clean the hull of a ship, but instead found something of medical relevance.
There is a film which can protect the bacteria that cause sinus infections from many of the current nasal sprays, but this microbe may be the solution to that problem. The research showed that the microbe can actually separate the bacteria from the sinus surface, and they were able to repeat this process in over half of the specimens used in the study.
More than one in ten people are affected by sinus problems – in fact, it is one of the most common reasons that lead individuals in the USA and UK to see their general practitioner.
What are some of the symptoms of this condition? – the nose becomes stuffy and may have a discolored discharge, while the temples and the area directly below the eyes become sensitive and perhaps puffy, and headaches are common.
Nasal sprays and antibiotics may provide some relief, but for many individuals sinus problems become chronic and sinusitis recurs frequently – many have even had to undergo surgery to try and counteract the condition. That having been said, there is great potential to help improve quality of life for a large number of people by developing a treatment for sinusitis.
Samples were collected from 20 different individuals for the study – each sample had between two and six different bacteria. In all, there were two dozen strains of bacteria as part of the study. More than half (14) of these strains were separated from the sinus tissue using the potential new marine based treatment. When attacked, the bacteria create a slimy defense layer, but the treatment (dubbed NucB) was able to breakdown the protective layer of more than half the strains responsible for sinusitis.
EKGs are now being considered as a regular part of health for women who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, as a 31% correlation has been found between women with OSA and cardiac symptoms resulting in heart problems.
What is OSA? It involves the slowing or stopping of breathing during sleep – it may involve just a few seconds, but could continue as long as a minute or more, and may occur just a few times per hour or every few minutes. The condition has been shown in clinical studies to result in cardiac problems.
This particular study involved a diverse group of women ranging from the young age of 15 all the way up to 45 years of age, and was conducted over the course of 7 years at a sleep center. Both data from the sleep lab and EKGs taken on a regular basis were considered.
Another connection was revealed between the occurrence of OSA and weight – women who were overweight were more likely to have breathing problems during their sleep and thus heart problems later on.
Age, race, and weight (specifically body mass index) were all considered as part of the study – it was revealed that over half of the women studied had a minor Apnea-Hyponia Index, and most of the women classified as having a mild case were in similar age, race and weight categories. The same was true of the nearly one fourth of women with a more severe condition.
In light of the results of this study it has been determined that regular EKGs are necessary for women who suffer from OSA and also exhibit some warning signs of future cardiac problems. Nearly one third of women in the high risk category will eventually suffer from such heart conditions – this is therefore a vital part of checkups.
It’s a sad fact that as we get older brain function declines – a recent study conducted over six years has shown that this effect is increased for the hearing impaired. Over the course of the study, regular cognitive exams were given to the participants, and it was found that scores dropped over 30% faster among those individuals who had hearing issues.
The greater the issues with hearing, the faster the decay took place. The study in which nearly 2,000 participants volunteered showed that hearing impaired individuals will lose mental faculties over three years quicker than aging individuals who can hear normally.
What is the significance of these findings? The study shows that a decline in hearing ability should not be ignored as a person ages, as this can lead to a faster decline in brain function – thus older ones should get their hearing checked regularly, and those experiencing hearing problems should take advantage of devices or procedures to correct the problem.
Doctors also need to discuss the importance of hearing with their patients more often – sadly, only about one out of every seven people who need a hearing aid wear one, and whether the reason for this is embarrassment or financial shortfall, the result is far worse than merely an inability to hear well.
What relates hearing problems and brain decline? A number of extraneous factors can play a part – hearing loss may result in less time spent socially with others, and isolation in turn certainly further affects brain function. Also, the brain expends more energy in trying to hear, thus leaving less processing power for other important and essential functions.
The researcher’s intentions for the next study are to see if hearing aids will help slow the mental decline indicated in the aforementioned study by restoring some hearing ability. Hearing loss now joins the list with strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure as one of the many factors that contribute to faster mental decline.
If you snore, be warned! According to a recent study, people who snore are more likely than smokers, obese individuals, or even those with high LDL levels to have carotid artery problems. When the lining of this artery grows thick, it is actually a precursor to hardened arteries which subsequently result in many vascular complications.
Therefore, it is necessary to recognize snoring as a warning sign, and not just something that aggravates your spouse. No, switching to the couch isn’t going to solve the underlying medical problems that could be brewing – a better solution to your snoring is to seek medical attention. The reverberations caused by snoring actually damage the carotid artery, even if you don’t have a condition like sleep apnea.
This really should not be a surprise – after all, sleep apnea has been connected to heart problems for quite some time. Now this latest study has taken things a step further and shown that snoring itself does damage.
The study consisted of patients of varying ages – none of them had OSA (apnea), so the study focused only on the effects of snoring. Over 50 patients participated in the research. Snorers showed a more significant thickness in the carotid than those who did not snore, while other risk factors like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure did not seem to have any effect on this thickness according to the results.
We spend so much time thinking of snoring as an embarrassing personal problem without any other real side effects that many of us choose to ignore it, hide it, and find ways to cover it up. The fact is that it can be a serious medical condition with future implications for health, and it needs to be taken care of.
Hopefully, this study will remove some of the stigma of snoring by showing that it is a significant health concern, thus motivating more snorers to seek treatment. Research aimed at trying to connect snoring with various potential heart problems continues.
In a journal for ear, nose, and throat doctors, new guidelines are about to be published for performing tonsillectomies on minors. The guidelines will include recommendations on how to care for patients in pre-op, intra-op, and post-op situations, and also include research on the complications that arise when different doctors approach this same surgery in different ways.
This is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States – in fact, over 500,000 are performed each year, and that’s just among children aged 15 or younger.
What is a tonsillectomy? By definition it involves the removal of the entire tonsil (capsule included), by means of the separation of the tonsil from the muscular wall – this area is known as the peritonsillar space. In some cases the tonsillectomy will include an adenoidectomy – this is more common when the reason for the surgery is a problem with breathing during sleep.
These published guidelines are going to be very important resource for the doctors who perform approximately 530,000 of these surgeries each year. It is hoped this will result in an easier process for surgeons, allowing them to make wise decisions which will render favorable surgical outcomes for the many children afflicted by tonsil problems.
One of the main things the guidelines will accomplish is to make it easier for practitioners to better determine when a tonsillectomy is the best way to proceed. They are also intended to help healthcare staff to manage the care of children undergoing a tonsillectomy more effectively.
The guidelines also encourage proper counseling for families of children undergoing such medical procedures, as they can be frightening especially for very young children. It will also cut back on the discrepancies between different practitioners who are treating patients with similar problems. It will also provide caregivers with alternative treatments for situations that do not require surgery.