Hearing Loss: Ways to Help

Peter Jaret's article on decibels and deafness {Cover, July 24} may help prevent needless hearing loss. Just telling people to see their doctor is not enough, however, because many doctors only prescribe a hearing aid. While modern hearing aids are wonderful instruments, they never can restore normal hearing like glasses can restore normal vision.

Even though hearing loss is by far the most common physical disability, information that is desperately needed is very hard to find. We need to know where we can take speech reading and coping classes, where to buy volume controls and other telephone helpers, as well as assistive listening devices for the television, doorbell and smoke alarms. Although more public places are installing listening systems, such as the Kennedy Center, many hard-of-hearing people aren't aware of them.

Most important are the support groups, such as SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing People), a national nonprofit volunteer organization that holds meetings throughout the metro area. More information is available by calling 703-430-2906. Joan Cassidy Sterling

Timely Message on Mammograms

Concerning your column on whether radiologists should accept self-referred mammogram patients {Forum, July 10}, I'd like to point out that women who are dependent on military medicine usually do not have a primary care physician. Access to military medical care is granted on a space-available basis -- a random hit-or-miss process. Therefore, self-referred mammography could be a lifesaver for millions of military-connected women. Margaret V. Hallgren President National Military Family Association Alexandria

Guidelines for Ethical Research

The commentary on barbarism in the name of science by the New England Journal of Medicine's Marcia Angell {Second Opinion, July 10} omitted an important type of unethical medical practice: physicians who try unproven therapies without clearly informing the patient.

For example, the common practice of prescribing a medication for a use other than the ones for which it has been approved should require informed consent. Likewise, if a surgeon wishes to modify an accepted surgical procedure, the patient should have the possible risks thoroughly explained. Physicians should be free to try innovative medical treatments, but only with the patient's prior consent. Edward E. Bartlett, DrPH Executive Director International Patient Education Council Rockville

Monosodium Glutamate: More Data

In discussing foods that can trigger migraines {Consultation, June 12}, monosodium glutamate was mentioned. MSG has a history of more than 80 years of safe human uses and is listed by the Food and Drug Administration among the substances generally recognized as safe, along with sugar and vitamin C, for example. It is one of the most thoroughly tested of all food ingredients, with more than 600 studies confirming its safety and use.

Some scientific research has identified a transient feeling of pressure in the temples alleged to result from MSG, usually at atypically high levels. However, no research has shown that MSG acts to dilate or constrict blood vessels or otherwise bring on a migraine. Certain individuals may be sensitive to MSG, just as certain individuals are sensitive to a particular food or ingredient. But MSG sensitivity has not been documented in controlled studies. In its recent report on MSG, the World Health Organization's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives placed MSG in its safest category by removing numerical limits on acceptable daily intake.

As an organization of manufacturers, national marketers and processed food users of glutamic acid and its salts, including monosodium glutamate, we hope this information will be helpful to Health section readers. John D. Buchholz Research Associate The Glutamate Association Atlanta Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.