March 28, 2009

Hail Body Perfection!

haircells.jpgThe Daily Telegraph is carrying an article on Hairs grown from stem cells could restore hearing to the deaf.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created the complex hair cells and the neurons needed for hearing from human stem cells.

They found they could encourage stem cells from the inner ears of human foetuses to grow into these highly specialised hearing cells.

The scientists hope they will eventually be able to use the cells to perform cell transplants in deaf patients to replace the hair cells and neurons that are damaged in a form of deafness known as sensorineural hearing loss.

The human race has an obsession with body perfection, and judging other people's bodies. It is often said that your body is your own private entity, but too often the mainstream thinks it has a claim on this by throwing judgment (be it by the way you look, or are quite happy being deaf). If you don't conform to these parameters, then sometimes it comes with actions that you don't have the right to fit into society. I've lost count the number of hearing people who are downright horrified that I won't entertain a CI. This pressure comes from media perceptions, the images so called charities throw about, and if you don't tow the line then tough.

It goes onto state the medical time frame of this project:

He warned it could be at least 10 years before human patients could receive stem cell transplants to restore their own hearing.

But he added: "In the shorter term, these cells also provide us with a very good model for studying the development of human hearing and the effect that new drug treatments may have on them."

In the article, RNID's intolerance of deaf people who they are and gives this message out to society, shines through again:

Dr Ralphe Holme, director of biomedical research for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said: "There are currently no treatments to restore permanent hearing loss so this has the potential to make a difference to millions of deaf people."

Nice one! Who represents our interests again?

And before anyone slams me for it - some people want to hear yadda yadda - it would have been more tactful for them to include "difference to ... deaf people where they want it" and something about how deaf people have a right to exist and participate just as they are. Who ever addresses society pressure, and say, my needs? Instead of doing this, voluntary organisations frequently add to the problem. Do they have the intelligence to see this? Prove it, action speaks louder than words.

Daily Telegraph: Hairs grown from stem cells could restore hearing to the deaf
Dr Marcelo N. Rivolta

Photo credit: Dr David Furness, Wellcome Images via LoreleiRanveig under CC

March 27, 2009

Deaf People at a Higher Risk of Heart Disease & Stroke

heart.jpgThere's a video report on the BBC website, which explains that doctors have found that deaf people are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. (BSL/English Interpreted only - no subtitles, sorry. Go and complain to the BBC). The reporting is from Sandwell, West Midlands.

Deaf Info: Physical Health
What happens when a deaf person has a stroke? [PDF]
What were the results of the Deaf Stroke Project? [PDF]
How can a stroke affect a deaf BSL users' communication abilities?
Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among Deaf Adults And Risk of Heart Disease
Deaf Wise (Scotland) Final Report [Word]
Sandwell Deaf Community Association

Photo credit: Pink Sherbert Photography under CC

January 9, 2008

Tinnitus: a new approach

Tonight there is a programme on BBC Radio 4 - Longing For Silence - at 21:00, which looks at the issue of tinnitus.

Kate Cook goes on a deeply emotional journey to explore what hope there is for a cure for the chronic tinnitus she has suffered for a quarter of a century.

It suggests cause plus form of treatment:

Berthold Langguth, a neurologist in Germany, believes the hearing cells in the auditory cortex (the brain area perceiving sound signals) in tinnitus sufferers are overactive and is trying to normalise them.

By running an electric current through sections of wire he creates a magnetic current. When held over the head of a patient the magnetic stimulation reduces the neural activity and diminishes unwanted sound.

And also touches on drugs:

Researchers in Cambridge have discovered that lidocaine, the most commonly used anaesthetic in the world, turns down the sound in two thirds of sufferers for roughly five minutes.

Whilst the drug is dangerous and the effect transitory, the discovery is clear proof for the first time that there is a mechanism to turn tinnitus off.

The golden key is to find a drug that has the suppressive effect of lidocaine without the side effects.

At the time of writing, I don't know if the BBC is planning on providing a transcript of this programme. If anyone wants to pursue this with Radio 4, and has any luck please use the comment box.

BBCi: New hope for tinnitus sufferers

January 5, 2008

Exposure to smoking can make you deaf

smoking.jpgEarlier this week BBCi carried an article Smoking link to hearing problems. A fetus whose mother smoked during pregnancy or teenagers who smoke are at risk from experiencing "auditory attention deficits".

To quote the New Scientist:

Nicotine may cause the teenage brain to develop abnormality, resulting in changes to the structure of white matter [brain] ... Teenagers who smoke or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from auditory attention deficits ....

Prenatal and adolescent exposure to tobacco smoke were associated with changes in white matter in brain pathways that relay signals to the war.

This had picked up on earlier research by Jacobsen, et al at Yale University, carrying on from previous work that stated in terms of prenatal exposure to nicotine:

... clinical studies have linked maternal smoking during pregnancy with persistent deficits ... [in] auditory processing in offspring. (Fried et al, 1997, 2003; McCartney et al, 1994)

And similarly for teenagers:

Nicotine is also disruptive to adolescent brain development (Abreu-Villaca et al., 2003) ... Neurodevelopment continues through adolescence

Teenage Smokers face badly wired brains; New Scientist, 5 January 2008
Prenatal and Adolescent Exposure to Tobacco Smoke Modulates the Development of White Matter Microstructure; Journal of Neuroscience, December 5, 2007 [PDF]
Gender-Specific Effects of Prenatal and Adolescent Exposure to Tobacco Smoke on Auditory and Visual Attention; Neuropsychopharmacology (2007) [PDF]
Smoking link to hearing problems; BBCi
Photo: Locator - Flickr

October 12, 2007

Oh god, not more CI deaths.

The FDA has just issued another health warning about cochlear implants and meningitis, following the deaths of TWO MORE deaf kids. This shouldn't be happening!

Children with Cochlear implants are at a higher risk for developing bacterial meningitis, a potentially deadly infection, and must be fully immunized against the disease. That warning came from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) after it learned that two children with Cochlear implants had recently died from bacterial meningitis...


...In its latest health alert, the FDA said that two children – ages 9 and 11 – with Cochlear implants had died from bacterial meningitis in the past year. Neither had been fully immunized against the disease, and both had Cochlear implants with positioners.

This isn't the first time this has happened. We vlogged about other cases in February and had a 3-day demo about it back in 2002, when it happened to loads of kids:


More pics here.

How many deaths over how many years is it going to take before this kind of thing stops?! Their lives are not disposable.


Bacterial Meningitis Kills Two Children with Cochlear Implants, Prompting FDA Warning (
CI to blame for death by meningitis
Cochlear Implantation Increases Meningitis Risk

October 9, 2007

Deaf babies linked to a higher risk of cot death

This week's Sunday Times carried an article, 'Cot death linked to babies who have suffered hearing damage'. It suggests that cells in the inner ear carry out a second function (as well as hearing), to give the brain a early warning system that oxygen levels are falling in a baby's blood.

Rubens’s research, published in the journal Early Human Development, found that a surge of blood from the placenta during normal births, which is designed to kick-start breathing, may in some cases damage the workings of the inner ear.

In particular, the sudden increase in blood pressure can damage cells in the inner ear, which detect higher sound frequencies, a loss of which can be identified by tests during early infancy.

Rubens, a paediatric anaesthetist, says some of the cells may also have a second purpose as part of an early warning system to the brain that oxygen levels are falling in the baby’s blood.

If cells are damaged, this early warning relay is turned off and so babies with weaker lungs are at greater risk from choking or suffocation from overheating or a cramped position in a cot.

The article then goes onto suggest that, "a C-section birth might reduce cot deaths", and links a long labour, with ear injuries.

Further reading:
Cot death linked to babies who have suffered hearing damage - Sunday Times
Cot Deaths - BBC website
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - Wikipedia