A Northwestern University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provides the first biological evidence that bilinguals' rich experience with language in essence "fine-tunes" their auditory nervous system and helps them juggle linguistic input in ways that enhance attention and working memory. Northwestern bilingualism expert Viorica Marian teamed up with auditory neuroscientist Nina Kraus to investigate how bilingualism affects the brain. In particular, they looked at subcortical auditory regions that are bathed with input from cognitive brain areas. In extensive research, Kraus has already shown that lifelong music training enhances language processing, and an examination of subcortical auditory regions helped to tell that tale. "For our first collaborative study, we asked if bilingualism could also promote experience-dependent changes in the fundamental encoding of sound in the brainstem -- an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain, " said Marian, professor of communication sciences in Northwestern's School of Communication.
Clinical-researchers from University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center report that cochlear implantation provides an effective and safe way of restoring hearing in patients with far advanced otosclerosis (FAO), a hereditary condition that can lead to severe hearing loss. "This is the first study to demonstrate that cochlear implants provide robust and long-term hearing restoration for patients with FAO, " said lead author Maroun T. Semaan, M.D., an otolaryngologist with UH Case Medical Center and an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "This is an important new treatment option for this challenging group of patients." FAO causes abnormal growth of bone in the middle and inner ear. This bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly and it diminishes hearing.
The genetics responsible for frequency-specific hearing loss have remained elusive until recently, when genetic loci were found that affected high-frequency hearing. Now, a study published in the open access journal BMC Genetics reports, for the first time, genetic loci with effects that are limited to specific portions of the hearing frequency map, particularly those that are most affected in ageing-related hearing loss. Presbycusis is the loss of hearing for high-pitched sounds that gradually occurs in most individuals as they grow older. Although many genetic loci have been linked to hearing deficits in humans, many loci that contribute to tonotopy, i.e. the organization of the auditory system that permits detection and discrimination of sounds of different frequency, remain undiscovered.
The results of a small phase 1 clinical trial of a non-invasive tinnitus therapy where the patient listens to sounds through headphones claims that compared to placebo, the treatment reduced tinnitus loudness and annoyance within 12 weeks in 7 out of 10 patients. Experts who welcomed the news say they now want to see the results repeated in a much bigger phase 2 trial. The trial was led by Professor Peter Tass at JÃ lich Research Centre in Germany, who with his colleagues tested a treatment called Acoustic Coordinated Reset (CR) Neuromodulation. They write about their findings in the 13 March online issue of the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience. Tinnitus is a condition where people perceive they are hearing sound, but there is no corresponding external sound. It is not a disease, but a neurological symptom generated within the auditory pathways in the brain.
The first national treatment guideline for sudden hearing loss has been developed by a panel of 19 medical experts led by Robert J. Stachler, M.D., an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Sudden hearing loss is a condition which sends thousands of individuals in the United States to the emergency room each year. The guideline was published this month in the Journal of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Stachler, said: "In most cases, patients will have multiple visits with several physicians and undergo extensive testing before a diagnosis is made. There's also been a lack of one or more uniformly accepted treatments, or a consensus on how to counsel patients who do fully recover their hearing. By focusing on opportunities for quality improvement, the guideline should improve diagnosis, reduce unnecessary tests and imaging procedures, and improve hearing for patients affected by sudden hearing loss.