Anchor lead: Hearing is a simple number you should know, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Hearing should be a reported number just like cholesterol. That’s according to Frank Lin, a hearing expert at Johns Hopkins, in a recent paper advocating for widespread adoption of the practice.

Lin: You know roughly your blood pressure, people who have diabetes will know their sugar, and things like that. The metrics really matter. Because the metrics are how we communicate things, it’s how you understand if it’s getting worse or better, it’s how you compare yourself to others in many ways. But hearing, ironically your realize, no one knows their quote unquote hearing number. We say oh it’s a mild, moderate, it’s severe. And there’s actually not a hearing number but the ironic thing about that is there are tons of hearing numbers.  Hearing is actually really straightforward and easy to measure with incredible precision. That’s what audiology is all about.  :30

Lin and colleagues have developed a staged plan to roll out awareness of hearing numbers and how important they are. The plan starts with getting experts in hearing to recognize and utilize a standard, then expanding that to other physicians and the public. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


In this next podcast, Maddie Whalen and Elizabeth Scala discuss the terminology that is used when speaking about inquiry work, reviewing literature or speaking with fellow project team members. They discuss the effectiveness and efficacy of information and give examples of each. Some examples of widely used terminology that were described includes: manuscript, publication, articles and research study. Finally, they wrap up the podcast by inviting listeners to contact the Center For Nursing Inquiry and connect with the program on social media.


Anchor lead: A new treatment for those with methamphetamine use disorder points to how big a problem this has become, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Methamphetamine use is responsible for a staggering number of drug overdoses in the western and midwestern United States, with a new study describing one intervention using two medications that may help. How do we account for so much methamphetamine use in some areas of the country while opioids predominate elsewhere? Eric Strain, a substance use disorders expert at Johns Hopkins, comments.

Strain: What are the circumstances early in trying a drug versus later when you’ve become habituated to its use. The circumstances under which somebody first uses a substance tend to be governed more by the social circumstances, there might be peer pressure or maybe they’re depressed, but then as the person hones in on using the substance I think its more what is going on with that person specifically, their genetic vulnerability, thing like that, as well as physical dependence. :31

Strain notes that in parallel with the pandemic, overdose deaths have also almost doubled, the latest CDC data report. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: How worried should we be about new Covid-19 variants? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Variants on the Covid-19 virus have popped up from at least three places around the world, scientists have found, with the potential for enhanced transmission person to person. Brian Garibaldi, a critical care medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, says his main concern isn’t the existing variants, it’s the overall rate of infection.

Garibaldi: The thing that I’m more concerned about is the fact that we’ve let this virus run rampant. And with so many people who are infected it has so many more opportunities to gather these mutations that by chance, might lead to a virus that does evade the vaccines. Now it is true that these vaccines can be modified very easily the platform that they’ve used, the mRNA vaccines they can modify the mRNA so that we make an immune response to these new variants if they become problematic. Right now I don’t think we need to do that. We certainly need to see more data in people who’ve been vaccinated.  :29

Garibaldi emphasizes that the best course for us all is to keep up with masking, distancing, and limiting interactions with others and to be vaccinated as soon as possible. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Why does air pollution reduce life expectancy? Elizabeth Tracey reports

How does air pollution impact life expectancy? A recent study suggests exposure to air pollution may be a major factor accounting for differences in life expectancy among residents who live just a few miles from each other. William Checkley, a critical care medicine physician and international air pollution and health researcher at Johns Hopkins, comments.

Checkley: Any exposure to air pollution leads to inflammation in the lungs, or even throughout the body. There are multiple components that affect life expectancy in adults, whether it is that you develop a chronic respiratory disease, a cardiovascular condition, inflammation itself increases risk of stroke, of heart attacks, and also the damage of course in the lungs that also makes you more susceptible to infections. It can all be related to a decrease in life expectancy.  :29

Checkley notes that in some polluted cities internal air filters are used by those with means to reduce their exposure to particulate matter found in air pollution. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Will testing saliva for Covid-19 replace nasopharyngeal swabs? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Testing saliva for Covid-19 has multiple advantages over the gold standard nasopharyngeal swab, two new studies report. Brian Garibaldi, a critical care medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, says these results must be viewed in context.

Garibaldi: When you think about these tests you have to think what is the reason I’m using this test? How am I going to put that positive or negative result into context? So the saliva based tests are easier, they don’t require putting a catheter up your nose so you don’t require any training to do them, they’re quicker to do, I think people will find them less invasive and less unenjoyable to get done, they’re fairly sensitive but they’re not as good as a PCR test, they’re not going to give you the same level of sensitivity so you’re going to miss cases. I think it’s a balance between if we can get more people tested it’s okay to miss a few more cases.  :32

Garibaldi says when transmission and cases are high, saliva may be okay for providing a broad picture of rates of infection in a community. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: How does having two very effective vaccines complicate the vaccine picture worldwide? Elizabeth Tracey reports

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently being used against Covid-19 report 90%+ efficacy, but Sinovac, the Chinese vaccine currently being used in South America, comes in at only 50.4%. Brian Garibaldi, a critical care medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, says we shouldn’t scoff at lower efficacies. 

Garibaldi: When this all started the FDA set its bar at 50% efficacy, so the fact that the first two vaccines happen to be incredibly effective, in some ways kind of hurts the overall development. What is the threshold at which we would find a new vaccine acceptable? We said 50% when we started, now we have this great 95% vaccine, but if there’s a vaccine that’s 80%, that’s really good and if you had told us five months ago, hey we have a vaccine that’s 80% effective against this virus, you would have said, sign me up, give it to me right now.  :30

Garibaldi notes that in order to vaccinate the majority of the world’s population, several different vaccines are likely to be needed, especially ones that don’t require cold temperatures or may need only one dose. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.