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Risky Music Listening, Permanent Tinnitus and Depression, Anxiety, Thoughts about Suicide and Adverse General Health

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Risky Music Listening, Permanent Tinnitus and Depression, Anxiety, Thoughts about Suicide and Adverse General Health
Source: PLoS ONE

Objective
To estimate the extent to which exposure to music through earphones or headphones with MP3 players or at discotheques and pop/rock concerts exceeded current occupational safety standards for noise exposure, to examine the extent to which temporary and permanent hearing-related symptoms were reported, and to examine whether the experience of permanent symptoms was associated with adverse perceived general and mental health, symptoms of depression, and thoughts about suicide.

Methods
A total of 943 students in Dutch inner-city senior-secondary vocational schools completed questionnaires about their sociodemographics, music listening behaviors and health. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine associations.

Results
About 60% exceeded safety standards for occupational noise exposure; about one third as a result of listening to MP3 players. About 10% of the participants experienced permanent hearing-related symptoms. Temporary hearing symptoms that occurred after using an MP3 player or going to a discotheque or pop/rock concert were associated with exposure to high-volume music. However, compared to participants not experiencing permanent hearing-related symptoms, those experiencing permanent symptoms were less often exposed to high volume music. Furthermore, they reported at least two times more often symptoms of depression, thoughts about suicide and adverse self-assessed general and mental health.

Conclusions
Risky music-listening behaviors continue up to at least the age of 25 years. Permanent hearing-related symptoms are associated with people’s health and wellbeing. Participants experiencing such symptoms appeared to have changed their behavior to be less risky. In order to induce behavior change before permanent and irreversible hearing-related symptoms occur, preventive measurements concerning hearing health are needed.

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Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary (2014)

May 27, 2014 Comments off

Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary (2014)
Source: Institute of Medicine/National Research Council

Being able to communicate is a cornerstone of healthy aging. People need to make themselves understood and to understand others to remain cognitively and socially engaged with families, friends, and other individuals. When they are unable to communicate, people with hearing impairments can become socially isolated, and social isolation can be an important driver of morbidity and mortality in older adults. Despite the critical importance of communication, many older adults have hearing loss that interferes with their social interactions and enjoyment of life. People may turn up the volume on their televisions or stereos, miss words in a conversation, go to fewer public places where it is difficult to hear, or worry about missing an alarm or notification. In other cases, hearing loss is much more severe, and people may retreat into a hard-to-reach shell. Yet fewer than one in seven older Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids, despite rapidly advancing technologies and innovative approaches to hearing health care. In addition, there may not be an adequate number of professionals trained to address the growing need for hearing health care for older adults. Further, Medicare does not cover routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids, which can be prohibitively expensive for many older adults.

Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging is the summary of a workshop convened by the Forum on Aging, Disability, and Independence in January 2014 on age-related hearing loss. Researchers, advocates, policy makers, entrepreneurs, regulators, and others discussed this pressing social and public health issue. This report examines the ways in which age-related hearing loss affects healthy aging, and how the spectrum of public and private stakeholders can work together to address hearing loss in older adults as a public health issue.

Environmental Noise Pollution in the United States: Developing an Effective Public Health Response

March 7, 2014 Comments off

Environmental Noise Pollution in the United States: Developing an Effective Public Health Response (PDF)
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Background:
Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss. Reducing environmental noise pollution is achievable and consistent with national prevention goals, yet there is no national plan to reduce environmental noise pollution.

Objectives:
We aimed to describe some of the most serious health effects associated with noise, summarize exposures from several highly prevalent noise sources based on published estimates as well as extrapolations made using these estimates, and lay out proven mechanisms and strategies to reduce noise by incorporating scientific insight and technological innovations into existing public health infrastructure.

Discussion:
We estimated that 104 million individuals had annual LEQ(24) levels > 70 dBA (equivalent to a continuous average exposure level of >70 dBA over 24 hr) in 2013 and were at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Tens of millions more may be at risk of heart disease, and other noise-related health effects. Direct regulation, altering the informational environment, and altering the built environment are the least costly, most logistically feasible, and most effective noise reduction interventions.

Conclusion:
Significant public health benefit can be achieved by integrating interventions that reduce environmental noise levels and exposures into the federal public health agenda.

Audit of VA’s Hearing Aid Services

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Audit of VA’s Hearing Aid Services (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

We conducted this audit to evaluate the effectiveness of VA’s administration of hearing aid order and repair services through VA’s audiology services. Tinnitus and hearing loss were the first and second most prevalent service-connected disabilities for veterans receiving compensation at the end of FY 2012. VA was not timely in issuing new hearing aids to veterans or in meeting its 5-day timeliness goal to complete repair services. During the 6-month period ending September 2012, the Veterans Health Administration issued 30 percent of its hearing aids to veterans more than 30 days from the estimated receipt date from their vendors. Medical facilities’ audiology staff attributed the delays to inadequate staffing to meet an increased workload. In addition, the Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center (DALC) took 17 to 24 days to complete hearing aid repair services, exceeding its 5-day timeliness goal. During this period, 5 of 21 repair technician positions were vacant. These vacancies, and an increased workload, adversely affected DALC’s ability to meet its timeliness goal for hearing aid repairs. We observed and estimated about 19,500 sealed packages of hearing aids were waiting for repair and staff to record the date received into DALC’s production system. According to management, staff did not record the date they received the packages because opening packages had the potential risk of losing small parts. Without a timely recording system, staff cannot adequately respond to veteran and medical facility inquiries. We recommended the Under Secretary for Health develop a plan to implement productivity standards and staffing plans for audiology clinics. Also, we recommended the Principal Executive Director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction ensure DALC determines the appropriate staffing levels for its repair lab and establish controls to timely track and monitor hearing aids for repair. The Under Secretary for Health and Principal Executive Director, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, and the Office of Inspector General concurred with our recommendations.

CRS — Video Relay Service: Program Funding and Reform

October 28, 2013 Comments off

Video Relay Service: Program Funding and Reform (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates a number of disability-related telecommunications services, including video relay service (VRS). VRS allows persons with hearing disabilities, using American Sign Language (ASL), to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment, rather than through typed text. VRS has quickly become a very popular service, as it offers several features not available with the text-based telecommunications relay service (TRS).

In June 2010, the FCC began a comprehensive review of the rates, structure, and practices of the VRS program. The goal of the review is to reform the VRS program, which had long been burdened by waste, fraud, and abuse, and by compensation rates that had become inflated above actual cost. The FCC issued its updated VRS Program rules in June 2013. The new rules initiate fundamental restructuring of the program to support innovation and competition, drive down ratepayer and provider costs, eliminate incentives for waste, and further protect consumers…

Clinical Digest — Spotlight on a Modality: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

September 9, 2013 Comments off

Clinical Digest — Spotlight on a Modality: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Omega-3 fatty acids have been in the news lately, after a new study raises concern about the association of omega-3s and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Omega-3s are a popular supplement used by many Americans. In fact, according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health practices by Americans, fish oil/omega-3/DHA supplements are the natural product (excluding vitamins and minerals) most commonly taken by adults, and the second most commonly taken by children.

Moderate evidence has emerged about the health benefits of consuming seafood, but the health benefits of omega-3s in supplement form are less clear. For example, the findings of individual studies on omega-3 supplements and heart disease have been inconsistent, and in 2012, two combined analyses of the results of these studies did not find convincing evidence that omega-3s protect against heart disease.

There is some evidence that omega-3s are modestly helpful in relieving symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3s may also be helpful for age-related macular degeneration (AMD; an eye disease that can cause loss of vision in older people). For most other conditions for which omega-3s are being studied, definitive conclusions cannot yet be reached. This issue of the digest provides information on what the science says about omega-3’s effectiveness and safety for several conditions for which there is the most evidence, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, infant development, and diseases of the eye and brain.

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl

August 14, 2013 Comments off

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Radiation cataracts develop as a consequence of the effects of ionizing radiation on the development of the lens of the eye with an opaque lens reducing or eliminating the ability to see. Therefore, we would expect cataracts to be associated with reduced fitness in free-living animals.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the incidence of lens opacities typical of cataracts in more than 1100 free-living birds in the Chernobyl region in relation to background radiation. The incidence of cataracts increased with level of background radiation both in analyses based on a dichotomous score and in analyses of continuous scores of intensity of cataracts. The odds ratio per unit change in the regressor was 0.722 (95% CI 0.648, 0.804), which was less than odds ratios from investigations of radiation cataracts in humans. The relatively small odds ratio may be due to increased mortality in birds with cataracts. We found a stronger negative relationship between bird abundance and background radiation when the frequency of cataracts was higher, but also a direct effect of radiation on abundance, suggesting that radiation indirectly affects abundance negatively through an increase in the frequency of cataracts in bird populations, but also through direct effects of radiation on other diseases, food abundance and interactions with other species. There was no increase in incidence of cataracts with increasing age, suggesting that yearlings and older individuals were similarly affected as is typical of radiation cataract.

Conclusions/Significance
These findings suggest that cataracts are an under-estimated cause of morbidity in free-living birds and, by inference, other vertebrates in areas contaminated with radioactive materials.

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