In Brief

In Brief

June 23, 2006

Audiology

Americans' hearing same as years ago

Despite the advent of iPods, louder movies and audio changes in society and technology, American adults' hearing remains about the same as it was 35 years ago, according to a new report.

The study, presented this month at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, also found that darker-skinned people tend to hear better. Non-Hispanic black adults in the United States have, on average, sharper hearing than Mexican Americans, and both hear better than non-Hispanic whites. Women, in general, hear better than men.

More than 5,000 adults, ages 20 to 69, were tested over a range of frequencies for their "hearing thresholds," the softest sounds one can hear. Compared with a study conducted 35 years ago, the results were a surprise because most people "have the perception that the world is getting to be a noisier place," said study coauthor Christa Themann, an audiologist.

Some researchers speculated that more people in noisy jobs may be using hearing protection. In any case, the authors caution that it may also be too early to detect the hearing loss caused by a louder society because people lose their hearing gradually.

Los Angeles Times

Health

Free screenings at Woodlawn mall

The Association of Black Cardiologists and local churches will offer free health screenings as part of a Baltimore Super Weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at Security Square Mall, 6901 Security Blvd. in Woodlawn.

The event will focus on decreasing risk factors with free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, weight and body mass. There will also be heart-healthy snacks and door prizes.

Activities will continue Sunday at several Baltimore churches with mini-sermons focused on eliminating stroke, heart disease and premature death. For more information, contact Joi Thomas at 443-277-6811 or e-mail mturner@abcardio.org

Stephanie Beasley

Fitness

Exercise benefits cancer patients

Among the growing list of people who can benefit from exercise, add another group: cancer patients in the midst of radiation treatment.

A new study has found that women and men undergoing radiation for breast and prostate cancer felt less fatigued, had improved quality of life and missed fewer treatment sessions when they engaged in a six-week routine of moderate exercise.

"To have their fatigue dissipate was really great," says Karen Mustian, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, who presented the 2005 study this month at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Fatigue is not only a common side effect of radiation treatment, but can get worse as treatment continues, she says.

The study included 39 sedentary men and women who were undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

Half were encouraged to engage in a daily program that included moderate walking and conditioning workouts using elastic bands.

The other half were assigned to a control group that did no exercise. At the start and end of the study, as well as three months later, participants filled out surveys rating their levels of energy and strength.

The control group reported higher levels of fatigue as the study progressed, and showed a decline in muscle strength. But the exercise group showed significant improvement. They were able to walk farther and faster as time went by and do routine daily activities without problems.

Los Angeles Times

Neurology

Brain has switch to change language

TOKYO --An international research team has identified a region of the brain that acts like a switch from one language to another, according to a report in the current issue of the journal Science.

The team discovered that the brain was less active when processing a series of synonyms than a series of antonyms because handling synonyms is easier.

Based on the finding, a series of synonyms described in two different languages - such as "fish" and "sake" (salmon in Japanese) - were shown to 24 English-German bilinguals and 11 English-Japanese bilinguals. Their brain activities were monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron-emission tomography.

Results showed a part deep in the cerebrum called the left caudate responded to synonyms as the languages changed. But the left caudate shows less activity, on par with the rest of the brain, when the same experiment was conducted in just one language. The team concluded the left caudate works like a switch to control language use.

Yomiuri Shimbun

Oncology

Skin cancer deadlier for blacks

African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with skin cancer when it is already in an advanced and possibly fatal stage, according to a report this week in the Archives of Dermatology.

Researchers pointed to a lack of public awareness about the risks of skin cancer for African-Americans as well as Hispanics, who are nearly two times more likely than whites to have a late-stage diagnosis. The research focused on melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Even though minorities are at relatively low risk to develop melanoma in the first place, when they do get the disease it is more likely to be fatal. Diagnosis in the later stages of melanoma decreases the survival rate to 16 percent.

Education about sunburn risk has been targeted mainly to people with light skin, who have the least natural protection against cancer, according to Dr. Robert Kirsner, who headed the research team from the University of Miami.

Chicago Tribune

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