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December 4, 2007, 10:32 PM CT

Common treatments for sinus infections may not work

Common treatments for sinus infections may not work
A comparison of common therapys for acute sinusitis that included an antibiotic and a topical steroid found neither more effective than placebo, as per a research studyin the December 5 issue of JAMA.

Acute sinusitis (sinus infection) is a common clinical problem with symptoms similar to other illnesses, and is often diagnosed and treated without clinical confirmation. Despite the clinical uncertainty as to a bacterial cause, antibiotic prescribing rates remain as high as 92 percent in the United Kingdom and 85 percent to 98 percent in the United States, as per background information in the article. Because there are no satisfactory studies of microbiological etiology from typical primary care patient practices, wide-scale overtreatment is likely occurring, the authors write. Concerns about wide-spread antibacterial use include increasing antibiotic resistance in the community. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as topical steroids are also used as a therapy and may be beneficial, but there has been limited research.

Ian G. Williamson, M.D., of the University of Southampton, England, and his colleagues conducted a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of the antibiotic amoxicillin and topical steroid budesonide in acute maxillary sinusitis (rhinosinusitis; inflammation of the nasal cavity and sinuses). The study included 240 adults with acute nonrecurrent sinusitis treated at 58 family practices between November 2001 and November 2005. Patients were randomized to 1 of 4 therapy groups: antibiotic and nasal steroid (500 mg of amoxicillin 3 times per day for 7 days and 200 g of budesonide in each nostril once per day for 10 days); placebo antibiotic and nasal steroid; antibiotic and placebo nasal steroid; placebo antibiotic and placebo nasal steroid.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


November 14, 2007, 8:42 PM CT

Genes influence age-related hearing loss

Genes influence age-related hearing loss
Waltham, MAA new Brandeis University study of twins shows that genes play a significant role in the level of hearing loss that often appears in late middle age. The research, in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, examined genetic and environmental factors affecting hearing loss in the frequency range of speech recognition.

This research confirms the importance of genetic factors in age-associated hearing loss, and the need for vulnerable individuals and their families to take extra care to prevent further hearing damage, said lead author Brandeis neuroscientist Arthur Wingfield.

The research suggests that middle-aged and older people with a genetic vulnerability to hearing loss should be especially careful about environmental risk factors such as harmful noise and medications whose side-effects could be detrimental to hearing.

The study examined 179 identical and 150 fraternal male twin pairs, ranging in age from 52 to 60 years, as part of the Viet Nam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA). About two-thirds of the hearing loss in the individual subjects better ears could be accounted for by genetic factors. In the subjects poorer ears, about one-half of the hearing loss was due to genes, the study concluded.

Wingfield, an expert on the relationship between memory performance and hearing loss in elderly adults, said that even mild hearing loss can indirectly lead to declines in cognitive performance because intellectual energy normally reserved for higher-level comprehension must be directed toward perceptual effort for accurately hearing speech.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


October 31, 2007, 8:46 PM CT

Ears ringing?

Ears ringing?
Brain researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered how cells in the developing ear make their own noise, long before the ear is able to detect sound around them. The finding, reported in this weeks Nature, helps to explain how the developing auditory system generates brain activity in the absence of sound. It also may explain why people sometimes experience tinnitus and hear sounds that seem to come from nowhere.

The research team made their discovery while studying the properties of non-nerve cells in the ears of young rats. These so-called support cells were believed to be silent bystanders not directly involved in nerve communication. However, to the scientists surprise, these cells showed robust electrical activity, similar to nerve cells. Further, this activity occurred spontaneously, without sound or any external stimulus.

Its long been thought that nerve cells that connect auditory organs to the brain need to experience sound or other nerve activity to find their way to the part of the brain responsible for processing sound, says the studys lead author, Dwight Bergles, Ph.D., an associate professor of neuroscience at Hopkins. So when we saw that these supporting cells could generate their own electrical activity, we suspected they might somehow be involved in triggering the activity mandatory for proper nerve wiring.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 16, 2007, 7:21 PM CT

Ear infection superbug resistant to all pediatric antibiotics

Ear infection superbug resistant to all pediatric antibiotics
Scientists have discovered a strain of bacteria resistant to all approved drugs used to fight ear infections in children, as per an article would be published tomorrow in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). A pair of pediatricians discovered the strain because it is their standard practice to perform an uncommon procedure called tympanocentesis (ear tap) on children when several antibiotics fail to clear up their ear infections. The procedure involves puncturing the childs eardrum and draining fluid to relieve pressure and pain. Analyzing the drained fluid is the only way to describe the bacterial strain causing the infection.

Even after the ear tap and additional rounds of antibiotics, infections persisted in a small group of children in a Rochester, New York, pediatric practice, leading to ear tube surgery and, in one case, to permanent hearing loss. The physicians realized they may be dealing with a superbug and tested the children's ear tap fluid at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The tests showed that the superbug, called the 19A strain, could be killed only by an antibiotic (levofloxacin, Levaquin) approved for adults that had a warning in its label against use in children. With no other choice, they treated the children with crushed, adult-approved pills, and it worked.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


October 10, 2007, 6:48 PM CT

MIT finds new hearing mechanism

MIT finds new hearing mechanism
MIT scientists have discovered a hearing mechanism that fundamentally changes the current understanding of inner ear function. This new mechanism could help explain the ear's remarkable ability to sense and discriminate sounds. Its discovery could eventually lead to improved systems for restoring hearing.

The research is described in the advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of October 8.

MIT Professor Dennis M. Freeman, working with graduate student Roozbeh Ghaffari and research scientist Alexander J. Aranyosi, observed that the tectorial membrane, a gelatinous structure inside the cochlea of the ear, is much more important to hearing than previously thought. It can selectively pick up and transmit energy to different parts of the cochlea via a kind of wave that is different from that usually linked to hearing.

Ghaffari, the lead author of the paper, is in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, as is Freeman. All three scientists are in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics. Freeman is also in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

It has been known for over half a century that inside the cochlea sound waves are translated into up-and-down waves that travel along a structure called the basilar membrane. But the team has now observed that a different kind of wave, a traveling wave that moves from side to side, can also carry sound energy. This wave moves along the tectorial membrane, which is situated directly above the sensory hair cells that transmit sounds to the brain. This second wave mechanism is poised to play a crucial role in delivering sound signals to these hair cells.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


October 8, 2007, 9:39 AM CT

Brain Center Responsible for Tinnitus

Brain Center Responsible for Tinnitus
For the more than 50 million Americans who experience the phantom sounds of tinnitus -- ringing in the ears that can range from annoying to debilitating -- certain well-trained rats may be their best hope for finding relief.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo have studied the condition for more than 10 years and have developed these animal models, which can "tell" the scientists if they are experiencing tinnitus.

These researchers now have received a $2.9 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the brain signals responsible for creating the phantom sounds, using the animal models, and to test potential therapies to quiet the noise.

The research will take place at the Center for Hearing and Deafness, part of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Richard Salvi, Ph.D., director of the center, is principal investigator. Researchers from UB's Department of Nuclear Medicine and from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo are major collaborators on portions of the project.

Tinnitus is caused by continued exposure to loud noise, by normal aging and, to a much lesser extent, as a side effect of taking certain anti-cancer drugs. It is a major concern in the military: 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffer from the condition.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


September 6, 2007, 9:37 PM CT

developing new method for hearing loss assessment

developing new method for hearing loss assessment
A new technique to diagnose hearing loss
A Purdue University researcher is working on a new technique to diagnose hearing loss in a way that more accurately reflects real-world situations.

"The traditional way to assess speech understanding in people with hearing loss is to put them in a quiet room and ask them to repeat words produced by one person they can't see," said Karen Iler Kirk, a professor of speech, language and hearing sciences. "The goal of our research is to develop new tests that reflect more natural listening situations with visual cues, different background noises, voice quality, dialects and speaking rates. This is a more accurate way to predict how people perceive speech in the real world and, therefore, can help us determine appropriate treatment and interventions, such as cochlear implants.

"The better the diagnostic tool we have to make such decisions, the better we can serve our patients".

Kirk received a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for the five-year project to develop two new audiovisual and multi-talker sentence tests that expand upon the traditional spoken word recognition format that has been used since the 1950s. One test is for adults and the other for children. More than 1,000 people ages 4-65 will participate in the study.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


July 31, 2007, 9:44 PM CT

Research Focuses On Vocal Cords

Research Focuses On Vocal Cords
Image of normal vocal cords, courtesy of the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore. For video of the vocal cords in action and vocal cord disorders.
Damaged or diseased vocal cords can forever change and even silence the voices we love, from a family member's to a famous personality's.

Julie Andrews, who starred in such classics as The Sound of Music, is among the professional singers who have undergone surgery to remove callus-like growths that can form from overuse of these two small, stretchy bands of tissue housed in the larynx, or voice box. Sadly, Andrews may never fully recover her singing voice after surgery on her vocal cords in 1997.

Engineering pliable, new vocal cord tissue to replace scarred, rigid tissue in these petite, yet powerful organs is the goal of a new University of Delaware research project. It is funded by a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Xinqiao Jia, UD assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is leading the project. Jia's research focuses on developing intelligent biomaterials that closely mimic the molecular composition, mechanical responsiveness and nanoscale organization of natural extracellular matrices--the structural materials that serve as scaffolding for cells. These novel biomaterials, combined with defined biophysical cues and biological factors, are being used for functional tissue regeneration.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


July 25, 2007, 10:23 PM CT

Improving Accuracy Of Thyroid Hormone Testing

Improving Accuracy Of Thyroid Hormone Testing
Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have developed a fast and accurate way to measure a major hormone released by the thyroid gland ? an advance they say may help in the therapy of a number of women who have overactive or underactive thyroid glands.

As per the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, approximately 27 million Americans have thyroid glands that produce too little of the hormone, thyroxine, a condition known as hypothyroidism, or else the gland produces too much, known as hyperthyroidism. Thyroxine regulates the body's metabolism, and hypothyroidism, linked to fatigue and weight gain, is much more common than hyperthyroidism, characterized by weight loss. More than eight out of 10 patients with thyroid disease are women, and nearly one out of 50 women in the United States is diagnosed with hypothyroidism during pregnancy.

In order to treat these conditions, physicians need to know how much synthetic thyroxine to either give patients or how much natural hormone should be blocked, and there have long been concerns that the common "immunoassay" test now in use worldwide is neither specific nor very accurate. To date, the immunoassay test has been used to measure those levels in women known to have abnormal levels of thyroid function based on a screening test.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


July 23, 2007, 5:17 PM CT

After Implant Of Cochlear Device

After Implant Of Cochlear Device
Cochlear implantselectronic devices inserted surgically in the ear to allow deaf people to hearmay restore normal auditory pathways in the brain even after a number of years of deafness.

The results imply that the brain can reorganize sound processing centers or press into service latent ones based on sound stimulation. Jeanne Guiraud, PhD, and his colleagues at the University of Lyon, Edouard Herriot University Hospital, and Advanced Bionics, a firm that makes cochlear implants, worked with deaf subjects from 16 to 74 years old and observed that younger subjects and those with a shorter history of deafness showed changes that mirrored patterns in people with normal hearing more closely. The results were reported in the July 18 Journal of Neuroscience

"The results imply a restoration to some extent of the normal organization through the use of the cochlear implant, says Manuel Don, PhD, of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. They also claim to find ties between the degree of restored organization and a hearing task. Such ties are of enormous importance in evaluating cochlear implant benefits. Don was not involved in this study.

Guiraud and her team studied 13 profoundly deaf adults who had received cochlear implants, on average, eight months before the study. Electrical stimulation to the ear allowed the team to locate where in the brains auditory cortex various frequencies were processed and come up with a map for these tones. Their results demonstrated that in people who had cochlear implants for at least three months, normal frequency organization was somewhat restored.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Among elderly patients with profound hearing loss, age at time of receipt of an electronic hearing device known as a cochlear implant does not predict subsequent hearing ability, as per a studyin the recent issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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