Is There a Monopoly on Hearing Related Health Issues?

Discussion in 'Health Talk' started by NikoD, Sep 28, 2013.

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    1. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      I would love some second opinions on this. I have been suffering from Tinnitus and Hearing loss for almost a year now. My Tinnitus affects my left ear and is very loud, I have also lost 80-90% in my left ear. I am in my early twenties.

      The industry which specialises in selling solutions related to hearing in specific, e.g. noise amplification devices (hearing aids), cochlear implants are some of the biggest beneficiaries right now.

      Do you think these cooperation are playing an active role in inhibiting the progress and advances in the field? e.g. hair cell regeneration in the cochlear? In an effort to maintain profits etc.
       
    2. Leah

      Leah Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Chardon, Ohio USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      2007
      Sure hope not, but interesting thought.
      Where would they all be if there was a cure?
       
    3. JTP
      No Mood

      JTP Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Finland
      Tinnitus Since:
      5/2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Shit happens
      I don't think so. Science is not that far yet. In fact we cannot even cure common flu!
       
    4. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      On the contrary, research has been done on smaller mammals (mice) to regrow inner hair cells (IHC's) with some success. Shortly after researchers exposed the mice to drugs or prolonged exposure to loud noise to purposely damage hair cells in these mammals, much like how hair cell damage occurs in humans. A drug was used to regrow the hair cells - The science is definitely here.

      I have spent some time looking over publications which are almost 3 years old. Some of these publications have take a similar approach and use other drugs to perform the same function.

      There were some points raised:

      1) Would this approach still work in mammals with cell death greater than a few hours? In most cases cell death will have occurred months if not years before

      2) Is it possible to apply these drugs directly to the supporting cell? (Using targeted drug delivery) Prevent the risk of cancers.

      3) Could this approach cause uncontrolled grown in the inner ear (Cancers) by the supporting cells themselves ?

      4) How would the drug be applied? Which method of delivery would be used?

      After the release of these publication its almost complete silence apart from a few institutions (Which I will share in time). I almost never can find new data, papers or follow ups on the research. Sadly.

      Hearing loss is increasing and is only set to increase unfortunately.
       
    5. gary
      Transparent

      gary Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Macomb, MI. USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      07/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Who Knows
      Sometimes I wonder too..
       
    6. erik
      Breezy

      erik Manager Staff Benefactor

      Location:
      Washington State, USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      04/15/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Most likely hearing loss
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    7. jazz
      No Mood

      jazz Member Benefactor

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      eardrum rupture from virus; barotrauma from ETD
      @NikoD

      Everyone here understands your frustration! :banghead: But there is no grand--or minor--conspiracy by groups such as the makers of cochlear implants and hearing aids. Tinnitus is its own field. While it is correlated with hearing loss, tinnitus also appears in people with no hearing loss--at least no loss below 8000 Hz. In addition, tinnitus is more than an ear disease: it is also a brain disease. Some of the best research into tinnitus is from neuroscientists--not neurotologists. Of course, brain diseases present their own challenges. But the good news is that neuroscientists find this disease interesting. That's not necessarily true for ENTs or neurotologists--most of whom appear bored by the disorder and tell their patients to get used to their noise.
       
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    8. yonkapin

      yonkapin Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Melbourne, Australia
      Tinnitus Since:
      March 2012
      It's interesting to think about and I wouldn't be surprised to be honest, the whole pharmaceutical industry is quite evil. However I think the scientists and medical folk have a genuine interest in helping the public and there's only so much big corporations can do to hinder progression. There's also a very crazy amount of money to be made on treating tinnitus and other hearing disorders, so I'm sure if something like AM101, Autifony or VNS sees some success, there'll be a bunch of other companies and investors ready to jump onto the bandwagon.

      Plus I think advancements in the understanding of our brains, stem cell therapy and stuff like gene therapy will push forward all sorts of search including that to do with our hearing. We just need to be patient I guess!
       
    9. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      Yes, I do

      That industry generates billions of dollars a year in revenues and those companies will fight very hard to maintain their profits, and have huge resources to call upon in that struggle. Check out where university funding into hearing loss-related research comes from and you will see that much of it comes from the noise amplication companies - it would be a brave research department head that embarked upon research or published results which displeased the people paying his salary. I have read that the US government has just handed out a big cheque to another hearing aid company (Neuromonics) to 'cure' the hearing-damaged veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan by giving them glorified MP3 players which make noises like early 1980's arcade games and cost several thousand dollars each! I wonder how that deal got brokered? :whistle:

      I additionally suspect that 'Big Pharma' is also not too keen on the public realising what a problem hearing loss is as so many 'over the counter' medicines (eg. Asperin, Paracetamol, Codine, Ibuprofen), let alone prescribed medicines appear to have ototoxic effects - the 'legal' term for 'may totally ruin your hearing' appears to be 'may cause dizzyness or vertigo', hidden in small letters somewhere in the folded-up leaflet hidden in the box the tablets came in. Again profits would take a huge hit if people realised the side effects of the headache tablet they were about to buy, or discussed possible side effects of prescribed medicine with their GP, and whether the antibiotic they were being offered was really necessary or did taking it just mean they could maybe be back at work a day or two earlier...

      When I was at school in the 1980's we were forever being told to brush our teeth (even being given free toothbrushes and toothpaste on occasion, kindly donated by pharmaceutical companies), warned about the dangers of fireworks, advised about protecting our eyes, being safe near traffic, not smoking, drinking or taking drugs, practicing safe sex etc etc but I never heard one word about protecting our hearing. Former US presidents (Clinton & Regan), A-list actors, famous TV presenters/anchors, rock stars, journalists (particularly music journalists) suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss but we still almost never hear anything about the dangers of noise. I consider myself reasonably well informed, and even worked for a health insurance and healthcare provision company for six years at one point in my career, but the first time I realised that hearing loss meant *more* and not less noise in my ears, and I heard the term 'ototoxicity' was after I came down with tinnitus myself six months ago. Something very strange there!
       
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    10. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      By the way, there may be a few lessons from the past here:
      Pharmaceutical industry:
      http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/sep/01/thalidomide-cover-up

      From another industry:
      http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1971-1980-ford-pinto12.htm
      Quote:
      Experts calculated the value of a human life at around $200,000, while a serious burn injury was worth about $67,000. Using an estimate of 180 deaths and 180 serious burns, someone put on paper that the cost to redesign and rework the Pinto's gas tank would cost close to $137 million, while possible liability costs worked out to around $49 million.
      snip
      "Clamming up is what we did at Ford in the late '70s when we were bombarded with suits over the Pinto, which was involved in a lot of gas tank fires. The suits might have bankrupted the company, so we kept our mouths shut for fear of saying anything that just one jury might have construed as an admission of guilt. Winning in court was our top priority; nothing else mattered. And of course, our silence added to all the suspicions people had about us and the car."
       
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    11. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      I thought there was some question over whether those people might have hearing loss which falls 'in between' the intervals which the hearing is tested at?

      All such advances are to be welcomed, but the OP mentioned specifically cochlear hair cell regeneration. I believe the neuroscientists are investigating such avenues as Vagus Nerve stimulation and Audio Therapy? (please correct me if I am wrong or indicate other fields of research). This is certainly valid research and might give some relief to our sufferring, but it is at the same time totally compatible with the interests of the hearing aid and cochclear implant companies as they will probably be able to incorproate said vagus nerve stimulation and appropriate audio therapies into their products in the near future. Rather importantly, these therapies offer no hope for recovery in hearing and so present no threat to the sales of the company's core products, only the potential for additional sales.

      However any technique which could actually regenerate cochlear hair cells would seriously impact the sales of hearing aids/cochlear implants - maybe even rendering them obsolete!

      So, why are so many of the ENT's and Neurotologists who ought to be finding ways to regnerate our hearing seemingly not doing their job?

      This is certainly true. When I spoke to Dr Wilden (I am trying LLLT in the hope it will help my coclear hair cells regenerate) he described the ENT profession's current behaviour in relation to tinnitus and hearing loss as being as absurd dentists not telling people to brush their teeth!
       
    12. jazz
      No Mood

      jazz Member Benefactor

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      eardrum rupture from virus; barotrauma from ETD
      While I believe in the future of stem cells for cochlear regeneration, and suffer daily from intrusive tinnitus, the entire stem cell industry faces numerous obstacles. Here is an article that discusses stem cell research issues; there are many more. In sum, nothing succeeds like success. Until there's a breakthrough in stem cells, funding for research will remain constrained. And this has nothing to do with one or two players in a single industry. It is endemic to the entire stem cell industry. But times are changing and more funding opportunities are emerging:

      http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/09/28/stem-cell-business/

      I just can't subscribe to conspiratorial theories. Human goodness, scientific inquiry, and the free market are forces too strong to be chained by special interests. :)
       
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    13. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      Thank you for the link. That is a very interesting article and gives some cause for hope

      If only this were true :(. The following example is quite well known but unfortunately there are plenty of other examples of special interests doing precisely that:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel
       
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    14. jazz
      No Mood

      jazz Member Benefactor

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      eardrum rupture from virus; barotrauma from ETD
      @Owch Thank you for the Wiki link.:) I had not read about the Phoebus cartel, but I am aware of corporate corruption. Let's hope the stem cell industry is too big to be manipulated. There is certainly world-class science being conducted in the US and around the world. Stem cell cures are a matter of "when" and not "if." But ten-to-twenty years is a long time to wait. Yet it is a range quoted by most stem cell researchers.

      I am interested in your progress with laser therapy. Keep us posted. We need success stories!
       
    15. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      You have overlooked that this industry may want to continue or "survive" the next 5-10 years - just like any other. If IHC cell regeneration was impossible, there would be no discussion. But thankfully it is and the question changed from if to when.

      The recent research which surfaced has the potential of causing huge changes to an 30 year+ old industry. Cochlear implants and hearing amplification may still have a market post-era but a very very small at that.

      I despise the thought of a conspiracy nut. No. I don't hold to any belief of lizard men in Tuxedos - I can assure :D . Lets discourse sincerely .
       
    16. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      I often come across articles highlighting this. Last I read, over 40% of veterans came back with some types of hearing related problem, majority noise induced.

      I'd hoped with the large number of veterans returning, we'd have a bigger reason to try and develop a better solution for those afflicted. And glorified mp3 players they are :D and not much of a solution. Now you've told me about Neuromonics those hopes are less lessened.
       
    17. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      Stem cells could work, useful for areas in the body where normal regeneration is impossible. Stem cells could be some distance away with the current state of funding etc.

      Scientists / specialists think there is a better therapeutic method to regrow cells for our cochlear:

      The cochlear has supporting cells, that have been turned into hair cells in petri and in live animal subjects, it is all very promising. I have posted the video twice before (One of the threads has disappeared) But here it is again:

      Drug enables deafened mice to hear again


      More in-depth (conference done in 2011) if you're interested:

      Hearing Restoration Summit: Andy Groves, Ph.D....
       
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    18. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      One doesn't need to believe in lizards, aliens or 'clandestine organisations' to recognise that the purpose of a large corporation is to make profits and to follow a strategy which allows them to pay dividends to their shareholders on an ongoing basis. Nor does it take a giant leap of imagination for one to consider that the people running them also (hopefully) feel some obligation towards their employees and ensuring that they will continue to have work and that their (probably subtly re-invested somehow in the corporation) pensions will maintain their value into the future.

      As you say, stem cell or other techniques for cochlear regeneration have the potential to render those companies obsolete, and so 'informed' major shareholders are certainly demanding to know if there is a credible strategy in place which will enable the companies to maintain their dividend payments and share values over the next few years in the light of the changes these new technologies may bring. The job losses that these new technologies could bring in the industry would also cause a lot of suffering. If you were running one of these corporations, responsible to both your shareholders and your employees, what might your thoughts be? (our sufferring with Tinnitus and hearing loss might feature rather low on their list of priorities)

      One relevant issue might be the requirement for a phase 3 clinical trial to prove that the treatment being trialled is more effective than existing, commonly used treatments. Hearing aids and cochlear transplants already 'cure' deafness so I wonder if it could presents a hurdle for FDA approval of any drugs or therapies that attempt cochlear regeneration for hearing recovery (and thus discourage potential investors)? If the new hearing-aid based techniques such as Neuromonics can boast 80% (or whatever) of tinnitus sufferers having their situation improved in published studies then again could this have a 'blocking effect' on the development of drugs targeted at tinnitus?

      http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/7/prweb10970617.htm
       
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    19. Owch

      Owch Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2013
      I've just looked at the Neuomonics website to try to work out exactly what the 'Sanctuary' product which the US Army paid to have developped does:
      http://neuromonics.com/treatment-options/sanctuary/

      Information about the product itself is very sparse with most of the copy being fluff about 'finding relief from tinnitus' and how much 'expertise' Neuromonics can offer, and no price is given.

      It seems that the player has three pieces of music loaded onto it in some form of lossless format and that each of these pieces of music has a 'customised high frequency signal' mixed into it which quote 'covers the tinnitus and provides an immediate sense of control and relief for the tinnitus sufferer', it is also possible that some kind of equalisation is applied to the music to match your audiogram, but this is inferred and not stated explicitly. It is made clear that this is not a treatment device, but is instead designed to give 'situational relief to mild to moderate tinnitus sufferers' at times when the tinnitus becomes bothersome.

      The protocol seems to be that you go to a participating hearing clinic where your tinnitus frequencies are measured and these are then sent together with your audiogram to Neuromonics who load the modified audio files onto the device and send it to you with a guidebook telling you how to use it, and then you are on your own

      The Product FAQ on the Neuromonics website contains the following comment:


      Why can’t I just use my MP3 Player?


      With the Neuromonics Sanctuary, the music you listen to is spectrally modified and customized with an embedded neural stimulus based on your audiological and tinnitus profile. We have an understanding of the importance of auditory stimulation at high frequencies, and have built this into the Sanctuary. This type of stimulation is not possible with MP3 Players because the sound files stored in MP3s are clipped. Additionally, music on an MP3 Player is not customized for the individual’s hearing profile. Due to the customization of the Sanctuary device, it is able to provide acoustic stimulation to a wide range of auditory pathways at comfortable and safe listening volumes.

      Sure, low bitrate MP3's are clipped, but lossless formats such as WAV, FLAC, Apple lossless, APE, WV etc. aren't and you would be hard-pressed to find a modern mp3 player that doesn't support at least one lossless audio format. I feel this comment borders on misrepresentation and clearly a very similar effect could be achieved by simply uploading the music files generated by Neuromonics onto a modern MP3 player or smartphone and listened to with a decent pair of headphones (Neuromonics offer Bose or Sony in ear headphones as an option)

      Apart from the professional evaluation of your tinnitus frequency in the clinic, it doesn't appear to me as if the 'sanctuary' product is offering much more than 'AudioNotch' offer for $75 (though AudioNotch is in MP3 format and has no equalisation applied), or what you can do yourself for free by following the instructions in the thread about notched music therapy on this website

      How much did the US Army pay for the development of this product and how much markup are Neuromonics themselves making on this device (as no prices are mentioned one has to assume the 'sancturary' products are rather expensive)? Now we see how profitable the hearing aid industry can be!
       
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    20. yonkapin

      yonkapin Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Melbourne, Australia
      Tinnitus Since:
      March 2012
      Yeah, the whole Neuromonics thing is disgusting to say the least.
       
    21. Steve H
      Creative

      Steve H Director Staff Benefactor Team Trobalt Team Tech Team Awareness Team Research

      Location:
      York, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      2003
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Flu, Noise-induced, Jaw trauma
      I was astounded to see the press release on Neuromonics getting funding for veterans. How on earth did they manage to secure that? I can only assume that they have an amazing team that lobby for them. If you look at their 'research' you wouldn't pick them to develop a product for you. In fact it doesn't even seem as though they have developed anything at all, just a different badge for existing techniques - all that money spent that could have funded some genuinely useful research.

      I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but the facts are that very little real money will find its way into cures unless it will be highly profitable. That's just the way that large, faceless corporations work, and unfortunately they fund a significant portion of the research carried out. They aren't interested in the greater good, all they care for is maximising profit and safeguarding their future profits.
       
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    22. NikoD
      English

      NikoD Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      A well informed individual is capable of knowing the obligation that exists between the stakeholder and shareholder. I have no interest in maintaining any discussion about this as it diverts attention about the topic. Any person who feels it requires a 'leap of faith' to believe these principles should do a little reading for themselves instead of throwing terms around such as 'conspiracy theorists'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shareholder_value

      :)


      Thanks for the in-depth insight. Hopefully we can start asking questions specific to this industry in ways which has not been done before.

      I think the case of Neuromonics is just one in many. I'd love to focus some time and bring to light some of the other recent profiteers in this field.
       
    23. christine kauhane
      Sunshine

      christine kauhane Member

      Location:
      honolulu hawaii
      Tinnitus Since:
      june 9th 2013
      sat will be having our family monthly BBQ at my sisters house karaoke will be out , that means people will be singing yikes!!! must wear my ear plugs , i should be ok right ????any advice .
       
    24. jss
      No Mood

      jss Member Benefactor

      Location:
      USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      June 2013
      Just follow the money trail and you will get your answers. Damaged hearing is big money......
       

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