In this study, the researchers measured a variety of physiological markers in chinchillas, some with normal hearing and others with a cochlear hearing loss, as they listened to tones in quiet and noisy environments. Chinchillas are used because they have a similar hearing range to humans, and background noise is used in the study to simulate what people would hear in a crowded room."The study confirmed that there is essentially no change, even for those with hearing loss, in terms of how the cochlear neurons are processing the tones in quiet, but once noise was added, we did observe a diminished coding of the temporal structure," Henry said.
"When noise was part of the study, there was a reduction in how synchronized the neurons were with the temporal fine structure," Henry said.
The auditory system filters sound into a number of channels that are tuned to different frequencies, and those channels vary based on their frequency tuning. In a normal system, the channels are sharp and focused, but they get broader and more scattered with hearing impairment."Now that we know a major physiological effect from hearing loss is that the auditory nerve fibers are particularly distracted by background noise, this has implications for research and clinical settings," said Heinz, who also has a joint appointment in biomedical engineering. "For example, most audiology testing, whether it is lab research or hearing-loss screenings, takes place in a quiet environment, but testing noisy, more realistic backgrounds is necessary to truly understand how the ear is processing sound. This also could influence the design of hearing aids and assistive technologies.
Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, firstname.lastname@example.orgSources: Kenneth S. Henry, email@example.com
Amy Patterson Neubert | EurekAlert!
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