Problems with the brain – not just the ears – cause a great deal of the age-related hearing loss in older people. Researchers are finding more and more subtle problems in the way our brain processes information as we age, so much so that an older person whose ears are in fine shape may have trouble hearing because of an aging brain.
In addition to earlier findings of a specific type of "timing" problem that limits our hearing as we age, the group is now finding increasing evidence of a "feedback" problem in the brain that diminishes our ability to hear. This week at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in New Orleans, researchers are discussing the results so far of the hunt for genes that play a role in the aging brain’s plummeting ability to organize the information our ears record.
"Traditionally, scientists studying hearing problems started looking at the ear," says Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and an adjunct professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. "But we are finding patients with normal ears who still have trouble understanding a conversation. There are many people who have good inner ears who just don’t hear well. That’s because their brains are aging."
Tom Rickey | EurekAlert!
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