Posts tagged with "audiology"

Image of Telescope via Gabrielle Archulleta for Use by 360 Magazine

Noisy Toys List Released

The American Academy of Audiology is warning parents about the dangers of noisy toys as the Sight & Hearing Association releases its annual Noisy Toys List for 2021. The American Academy of Audiology is a national association representing audiologists across the U.S. The Sight & Hearing Association is based in St. Paul, Minnesota with a goal to work towards the prevention of vision and hearing loss. Both organizations are urging parents to be cautious this holiday season when selecting toys. Recognizing that tiny ears are particularly susceptible to hearing damage, it is important to check noise levels before purchase.

“Many parents don’t realize the permanent damage a simple toy can inflict on a child’s hearing,” said Sarah Sydlowski, Au.D., Ph.D., MBA, president of the American Academy of Audiology; and associate chief improvement officer and audiology director of the Hearing Implant Program at Cleveland Clinic. “When we fail to protect a child’s hearing, the result can be irreversible hearing loss.” The inner ear contains delicate hair cells which do not regrow. Once these are damaged by noise, the result can be permanent hearing loss.

The Sight & Hearing Association has produced an annual list of noisy toys prior to the holidays for the past 24 years. Since 1939, SHA has been identifying and preventing vision and hearing loss, in partnership with other professional and community organizations, by providing screenings, education and research. “During the holiday season, we look for the most popular sound-producing toys on the market and, with a sound level meter, we measure the decibel level to raise awareness regarding how dangerously loud and potentially damaging toys can be to children. Toys are tested based on how a child would play with them, first at arm’s length (10 inches) and then next to the ear, which is how a child often listens to a noisy toy,” explained Kathy Webb, executive director of SHA.

“It’s very important that parents pay attention to this list as well as any toy they purchase. Hearing damage can be from a one-time exposure or multiple exposures over time,” explained Sydlowski. “The louder a sound is, the shorter the amount of time you can safely be around it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends sounds at 85 dB can be safe for up to eight hours. But for every 3 dB louder the sound is, the safe listening time reduces by half. Anyone buying toys for children needs to be aware of loud noises, particularly toys that have loud bursts—cap guns, popping balloons, air horns, etc. which are loud enough to damage hearing permanently with one short exposure.” 

A study released in January 2017 by researchers with the University of Alberta in Canada, determined the noise levels of popping balloons. They studied popping them with a pin, blowing them up until they ruptured and crushing them until they burst. The ruptured balloons clocked in at 168 decibels, four decibels louder than a 12-gauge shotgun.

Sydlowski advises parents to use phone apps to test the sound levels of toys before buying them. “Toys that make noise at or above 85 dBA can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. If they come in at 85 decibels or higher when holding your phone microphone near them, like your child would hold the toy near their own ear, don’t buy them. It isn’t worth the risk. Remember, the louder the sound, the faster the damage and damage continues with exposure.”

While hearing loss numbers are rising in adults in the U.S., the total number of children with some type of hearing loss is unknown and many cases go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“A child with just minimal hearing loss can be missing 50 percent of classroom discussion,” Sydlowski explained. These children will need to use extra effort in order to hear what is being said and they often become distracted and exhausted by the end of the day. These characteristics can be mistaken for learning disabilities when what the child needs is management of the hearing loss, typically in the form of hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. 

Reduced hearing can lead to behavioral issues, lack of focus, even depression in children. Children with hearing loss often don’t recognize that they can’t hear and parents don’t always know the signs.

Sydlowski cautioned, “Loud toys aren’t just annoying to parents, they can be a danger to children. Parents should exercise caution when buying toys with sound, including video games. With toys and games where you can turn the sound down, set the sound at an acceptable, non-harmful level and teach children to keep them at that level. Also, be vigilant about any signs that may indicate your child is having difficulty with their hearing. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, have a comprehensive hearing test with an audiologist.”

The American Academy of Audiology provides a list of licensed audiologists on its website. Click on “Find an Audiologist.”

Headphones illustration by Alex Bogdan for use by 360 Magazine

Interview with Dr. Kraus

By: Skyler Johnson

Learning how to play an instrument can help with the development of the human brain, according to scientist, inventor and Northwestern University professor Dr. Nina Kraus. She outlines this research in her new book, Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful World. I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Kraus about the book and her findings. 

  1. Can you go over, briefly, what your newest book covers?

My book is a retrospective of what my lifetime researching sound and the brain has taught me. It covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the brain of a musician, to the link between sound and reading, to the perils of noise, to the wonder that is birdsong, to the aging brain. And much more.

  1. How did you get into that sort of research?

As a child, I was fortunate, from a sound perspective, in two ways. First, I was exposed to music at a young age. My mother was a pianist and my favorite place to play was under her piano, listening to her beautiful music. Second, I grew up in a household where more than one language was spoken, regularly traveling between the US and Italy, learning to navigate two different linguistic worlds. These early experiences with music and language left a deep imprint. They stuck with me as I made my way through college, looking for a way I could channel my interest in sound into a career. After a few starts, I got hooked up with a lab studying how sound acquired relevance in the brain. In other words, how the brain itself is changed by sounds it hears! And the rest is history.

  1. How often should people be playing music? 

The benefits of playing music are many, and certainly the more you play the more it enriches your sound mind. However, my research has told me you do not have to be a professional to tune your brain. I would say you need to play (practice) regularly, though. At least a few times a week.

  1. What types of instruments should people be playing to gain the effects? 

As far as I can tell, based on my research and others’, it does not matter. Any instrument, including voice, is a boon to your brain.

  1. When did you first start playing an instrument yourself?

Age 5. Piano. I also play some guitar and drums.

  1. Did your personal experience with playing music influence your desire to start your research?

In a way, I think it did. I did not start my career studying music. That line of work got rolling some 15 years ago. At that time, my research was examining the role of sound processing on literacy in school-age children. That got me connected with teachers and other educators and I was starting to hear the same thing over and over: “The kids that do best in school tend to be the ones who play an instrument.” And that just seemed right to me on a scientific-gut level. I can feel, on a personal level, that my music playing has been good for my brain. Soon, I made some contacts with educators who ran music programs and wanted to know whether and how playing music affected the brains of their young musicians. And, so this whole new rewarding line of research was born. Who knows? If I wasn’t a musician myself, my research would have taken some other course.

The Listening Project

Next month, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance will host the premiere of The Listening Project, a documentary co-created by renowned audiologist Jane Madell and Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky. The film profiles 15 young adults who were born deaf but can now hear, thanks to cutting-edge technologies, including cochlear implants.

 

The Listening Project shows that nothing is impossible for deaf kids,” Madell said. “Thanks to years of determination and hard work – and with an assist from some innovative technology – these young adults have built lives and careers the world may not have thought were possible for them.”

 

The film’s stars are 15 deaf twenty- and thirty-somethings who rely on groundbreaking medical devices to hear. Most received cochlear implants – electronic hearing devices that bypass a wearer’s ears and send auditory signals directly to the brain.

 

Some received their devices as young children, while others did not get them until they were teenagers. All underwent years of therapy with Madell in order to acclimate their brain to hearing and learn to speak. They’ve gone on to build successful careers as doctors, business analysts, neuroscientists, musicians, and audiologists, among other pursuits. Most speak like they’ve never had a hearing loss.

 

“The young people in The Listening Project offer an example that all of us can aspire to, both those with hearing loss and those without,” said Donna Sorkin, executive director of the American Cochlear Implant Alliance. “The future for deaf children today is even brighter, as cochlear implant technology has improved rapidly since the stars of the film were kids.”

 

 

 

WHAT: The Listening Project Documentary Premiere

WHEN: Friday, March 9, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

 

Contact :

Andrew Grafton 

andrew@keybridge.biz 

(202)-471-4228 ext. 119.

 

About the American Cochlear Implant Alliance

The American Cochlear Implant Alliance is a not-for-profit membership organization created with the purpose of eliminating barriers to cochlear implantation by sponsoring research, driving heightened awareness and advocating for improved access to cochlear implants for patients of all ages across the U.S. ACI Alliance members are clinicians, scientists, educators, and others on cochlear implant teams as well as parent and consumer advocates.