Two brain function biomarkers might explain hidden hearing loss

Washington: A recent study has pinpointed two brain function biomarkers that explain why some people with normal hearing might struggle to follow conversations in noisy environments. Headed by researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the study revealed that “listening effort,” and the ability to process rapid changes in frequencies are the biomarkers that can possibly indicate whether a person suffers from hidden hearing loss.

The study could contribute to designing next-generation clinical testing for this condition that cannot currently be measured using standard hearing exams.

“Between the increased use of personal listening devices or the simple fact that the world is a much noisier place than it used to be, patients are reporting as early as middle age that they are struggling to follow conversations in the workplace and in social settings, where other people are also speaking in the background,” said senior study author Daniel B. Polley, PhD, Director of the Lauer Tinnitus Research Center at Mass.

Eye and Ear and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Head-Neck Surgery at Harvard Medical School. “Current clinical testing can’t pick up what’s going wrong with this very common problem.” “Our study was driven by a desire to develop new types of tests,” added lead study author Aravindakshan Parthasarathy, PhD, an investigator in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass. Eye and Ear. “Our work shows that measuring cognitive effort in addition to the initial stages of neural processing in the brain may explain how patients are able to separate one speaker from a crowd.”

Hearing loss affects an estimated 48 million Americans and can be caused by noise exposure, ageing and other factors.

—ANI

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