HHTM Hearing News Round-up: This Week’s Notable Stories

July 18, 2018

Newsworthy items affecting the audiology profession and hearing care industry. Grab a strong cup of coffee (or a tea, if that’s your thing) and click on some of the links listed below to learn more.


CMS Attempting to Streamline Paperwork and Restore Doctor-Patient Relationship


On July 12, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed historic changes that would increase the amount of time that doctors and other clinicians can spend with their patients by reducing the burden of paperwork that clinicians face when billing Medicare. The proposed rules would fundamentally improve the nation’s healthcare system and help restore the doctor-patient relationship by empowering clinicians to use their electronic health records (EHRs) to document clinically meaningful information, instead of information that is only for billing purposes.

In addition to its “patients over paperwork” initiative CMS announced they are investigating ways to streamline Evaluation and Management (E&M) payments, lower drug costs and advance remote, virtual care.


New Study Examines Link Between Hearing Sensitivity and Attention


In a paper published online at ENeuro, an open access journal of the society of Neuroscience, researchers from several prestigious institution used fMRI to measure brain activity in healthy adults with self-reported normal hearing whey they listened to spoken sentences. The researchers found that regions of right frontal cortex are more active for listeners with poorer pure tone hearing thresholds.


According to the investigators, their findings suggest executive attention varies with hearing ability, even in the absence of clinical hearing loss, during successful auditory sentence comprehension.


The results suggest that even small variations in hearing ability can affect auditory speech comprehension. The entire study can be found here.


Could Pot Help Hearing Loss?


GB Sciences, Inc., a start-up company, has filed a patent application on the use of cannabis-based therapies for the manipulation of cannabis-sensitive ion channels in sensory neurons that contribute to chronic inflammatory pain conditions, peripheral neuropathy, urinary cystitis, asthma, and specific types of hearing loss. According to a Globe Newswire press release, the GB Sciences drug development team believes that these new cannabis-based treatments could be the dawning of ‘individualized medicines’ from the cannabis plant by re-establishing balance in each individual patient’s endocannabinoid system.

In theory, the science is straightforward: Sensory neurons contain multiple members of the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channel family, where they detect pain, inflammation and stress.  These ions relay signals through activation/de-activation of calcium, sodium, and magnesium ion gradients across cellular membranes. In a statement to the Globe Newswire, Andrea Small-Howard, Chief Science Officer of GB Sciences, was quoted:

“Manipulating the TRP channels in sensory neurons could provide much needed relief for patients who are suffering from chronic pain, asthma, urinary cystitis, or hearing loss. The ability to use specific combinations of cannabinoids and terpenoids to modulate TRP ion channels in sensory neurons could usher in the beginning of a new era of precision medicines derived from the cannabis plant.”


Sound Used to Treat Hand Tremors


National Public Radio reported July 9 on an individual who uses a recently FDA-approved treatment for a condition called essential tremor or familial tremor that affects more than 7 million people in the U.S. The new treatment uses sound waves to reduce tremors without traditional surgery. Listen to the story here.


Amazon Aspiring to Get into Medical Supply Business


The world’s biggest online retailer, Amazon, plans to hire someone to lead outreach of medical-product manufacturers and service providers. This announcement could be a signal that Amazon is ramping up plans to be more directly involved in healthcare services.

According to a recent Seattle Times report, Amazon will focus on building the business in the U.S. and then expanding it globally.


The Power of Positive People


A July 10 New York Times article discussed the topic of moais, a kind of social network popular in Japan, and how these groups, which consist of five or more people can be used to boost a healthier lifestyle. According to the story, several state and federal health agencies, including the US surgeon general are creating moais in two dozen cities around the country.


*featured image adapted via wikimedia commons

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