Portions of a songbird's brain that control how it sings have been shown to decay within 24 hours of the animal losing its hearing. The findings, by researchers at Duke University Medical Center, show that deafness penetrates much more rapidly and deeply into the brain than previously thought. As the size and strength of nerve cell connections visibly changed under a microscope, researchers could even predict which songbirds would have worse songs in coming days. "When hearing was lost, we saw rapid changes in motor areas in that control song, the bird's equivalent of speech, " said senior author Richard Mooney, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at Duke. "This study provided a laser-like focus on what happens in the living songbird brain, narrowed down to the particular cell type involved.
Many adolescents frequently expose their ears to loud sounds, for example from portable music players. Some of them may think that 'the doctor said that my hearing is good, so I guess I can handle the loud volume'. A new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that research-based teaching in school can be used to positively change adolescents' awareness and behaviour. Eva West, researcher at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies, has developed research-based teaching material about sound, hearing and auditory health that she has tested on nearly 200 students in grades 4-8. The students' knowledge about sound, the function of the ear, hearing and tinnitus was tested before and after the teaching. She also studied the students' attitudes towards high sound levels.
NIH-supported scientists will be presenting their latest research findings at the 2012 Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) February 25-29, 2012 at The Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, San Diego, California, USA. Research topics to be presented by NIDCD-funded scientists will include: Bilateral / Binaural: Can the Ability to Localize Sounds Be Regained After Bilateral Cochlear Implantation? Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison Bilateral cochlear implants - one implant for each ear - are becoming more common as a treatment for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Many children with cochlear implants attain spoken language skills that are comparable to their hearing peers, but even with two implants children often appear to perform significantly worse on tasks that involve hearing in complex listening environments (a busy classroom, for example) where they need to distinguish a teacher's or classmate's voice from competing background noise.
Two researchers in Japan have invented a "SpeechJammer" device that can stop a person talking in mid-sentence, by just projecting back to them "their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds". The device does not stop them talking permanently, it is just that they become so confused, they can't finish their sentence and begin to stutter or just shut up. The two researchers are Kazutaka Kurihara, a media interaction research scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Koji Tsukada, an assistant professor at Ochanomizu University, and a researcher at JST PRESTO, a program that aims to "cultivate the seeds of precursory science and technology". They describe their prototype SpeechJammer, and the results of some experiments, in a paper published on 28 February on arVix, an e-print service owned, operated and quality controlled by Cornell University.
On March 1, 2012, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation published a new Clinical Practice Guideline on Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL). This guideline is published as a supplement to Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. A sudden loss of hearing is a frightening symptom that most often prompts urgent medical care. Current diagnosis and treatment plans vary greatly. This guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis, management, and follow-up of adults who present with SHL. Prompt, accurate recognition and management of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), a subset of SHL, may improve hearing recovery and patient quality of life. SSNHL affects 5 to 20 per 100, 000 population, with about 4, 000 new cases per year in the United States.