July 2017
In This Issue
Hearing Health 

Institute Happenings 

Upcoming Events 
  Recent Blogs 
Dear Friends, 

The summer season is finally here! As we begin to spend more time outdoors, we take measures to protect ourselves during summertime activities by using sunscreen, applying bug spray, or wearing life-jackets. But, if you plan on enjoying a fireworks show over the 4th of July holiday, you may want to consider bringing along one additional precautionary item: a pair of earplugs!

Did you know that firework displays and other outdoor activities such as mowing the lawn or attending a concert could damage your hearing without the proper protection? In this issue, we will learn about the auditory system and explore how hearing loss differs between men and women. 

Nicole C. Woitowich, PhD 
Director of Science Outreach and Education 
Hearing Health 
We are able to interact with our environment and those around us by utilizing our 5 senses: Sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. The sense of hearing is most commonly used to help us communicate with others, acquire knowledge, and be aware of our surroundings. The ability to hear is controlled by our  auditory system. The human auditory system is composed of the outer, middle, and inner portions of the ear which are responsible for receiving sounds waves and transmitting them to our nervous system. Then our auditory nerve sends sensory information about sound to a region of the brain responsible for converting what we hear into recognizable sounds. 

You may be surprised to learn that the auditory system begins to function before we are even born, around third trimester of pregnancy, and continues to develop throughout childhood [1]. Yet, as we age, our ability to hear becomes diminished, caused by the progressive loss of specialized hair cells in the inner ear which detect sound waves. Once the hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired – thus we lose the ability to hear certain types of sounds. Age-related hearing loss is a normal process, yet the severity hearing loss may depend on the individual. Additional factors associated with hearing loss include genetics, noise exposure, or certain health conditions. 
Sex and Gender Differences in Hearing Loss

Patterns of hearing loss can differ between men and women [2]. With age, women are more likely to have a difficult time hearing low frequency sounds such as deep male voices, bass drums, or words with the vowel “ o .”  Men, on the other hand, have a harder time hearing high frequency sounds such children’s voices, whistles, or words with the consonants, “ s ,” “ h ,” or “ f .”

By the numbers, men are 2 to 5 times more likely to experience hearing loss compared to women [3,4]. Without hearing protection, exposure to loud noises over a long period of time can contribute to hearing loss. It may be possible that men choose occupations where noise exposure is higher than in other fields, such as the military, industry, farming, or aviation, leading to greater levels of hearing loss [5]. 

Although more men suffer from hearing loss, women are more willing to disclose information about their hearing loss to others. A 2016 study found that women are more descriptive about their hearing impairment and more willing to ask for help or accommodations [6]. In addition, women are more likely to use hearing aids on a daily basis compared to men [7]. These gender differences suggest that men may benefit from additional support and counseling during treatment for hearing loss.  

Ask the Experts

In this issue, we’ve asked Dr. Katie Masterson Colella, a pediatric audiologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to share with us some valuable advice on hearing loss and ways to prevent hearing damage.

What are some tips to prevent hearing loss during common summer activities, such as mowing the lawn or attending a concert?
The simplest solution is to use hearing protection devices. There are inexpensive options, such as foam ear plugs, available at most drug stores and on Amazon. Hearing protection safety muffs, which provide more protection, have become more reasonably priced over the years. Plus, they don’t have to be replaced after a couple uses like ear plugs. Those can be found in stores and online for less than $20. Custom ear protection is the most expensive, but they are less cumbersome than ear muffs, and are a great option for hunters and musicians. Anyone interested in the right type of hearing protection for their needs should consult with a licensed audiologist.

Does exposure to loud noises as a child or young-adult affect your hearing later in life?
Absolutely, it does. With the rise of personal listening devices and the use of ear buds, children and young adults may be causing noise-induced hearing loss damage without realizing it. Parents can research the safe volume for any phone, tablet, iPod, or other personal listening devices. It is usually available online, or you can ask the store from where you bought the device. Typically, the half way point on the volume line is the loudest the device should be set when wearing headphones or earbuds. If you or your child feel like the volume needs to be louder than that when listening in a quiet place, it might be time to get their/your hearing checked!

Do you have any advice for maintaining healthy ears and to prevent hearing loss?
A little hearing protection can go a long way in life. However, everyone’s hearing does start decline at some point, typically after the age of 50. Listen to your family and friends if they start to have concerns about your hearing and get tested by a licensed audiologist. Research has linked hearing loss to an accelerated decline in mental health, including dementia. Don’t take your hearing for granted!  

For additional reading, Dr. Colella suggests the following articles:
Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss
Audiologist Talks About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 
1) Litovsky, R. Handb Clin Neurol. 2015; 129: 55–72.
2) Helzner et al., J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Dec;53(12):2119-27.
2) Agrawal et al., Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(14):1522-1530.
3) Lin et al., J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 May; 66A(5): 582–590.
4) Lie et al., Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2016; 89: 351–372.
5) West et al.,  Ear Hear. 2016 Mar-Apr;37(2):194-205.
7) Staehelin et al., Ear Hear. 2011 Nov-Dec;32(6):e26-37.
Institute Happenings
Women's Health Science Program
On Saturday, June 24th the Women’s Health Research Institute hosted its annual Women’s’ Health Science Program (WHSP) for Chicago Public High School students. This year’s theme, “Reproductive Science Saturday,” introduced students to the fields of reproductive science and medicine through interactive lectures and hands-on laboratory experiences led by Northwestern University students, faculty, and staff.

The WHSP program introduces students to a variety of career paths in the basic and health science and provides them with with a support network of over 200 WHSP alumnae. In addition, students had the opportunity to make new acquaintances, as attendees for the 2017 program hailed from 8 geographically diverse Chicago Public High Schools. 

When asked what they enjoyed the most about Reproductive Science one student said,  " I love meeting other students and researchers that had the same passions [for science and medicine] as I do." Another student saw the WHSP program as a valuable resource. "I will truly cherish this experience. I feel like this event will be crucial in my decision on where to major in STEM," she said. 
Upcoming Events 

July 18th: Women's Health Research Monthly Forum 
"Genetic Variation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome"
Dr. Margrit Urbanek
Associate Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology)
Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University 

12:00PM - 1:00PM
Prentice Women's Hospital, 250 E. Superior Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room L South

This activity has been submitted to the Ohio Nurses Association for approval to award contact hours. The Ohio Nurses Association (OBN-001-91) is accredited as an approver of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. 
Was the information in this newsletter helpful to you? 
Please provide your feedback by filling out a quick survey: