December 28, 2016

UConn researchers' new test identifies 'hidden' hearing loss

Two UConn School of Medicine researchers have developed a new hearing test that can identify hearing loss or deficits in some individuals considered to have normal or near-normal hearing in traditional tests, perhaps leading to critical early interventions for vulnerable populations of listeners, according to a UConn Today report.

"We now have a validated technique to identify 'hidden' hearing deficits that would likely go undetected with traditional audiograms," Leslie R. Bernstein, professor of neuroscience and surgery at UConn, who conducted the study with Constantine Trahiotis, emeritus professor of neuroscience and surgery, UConn Today said.

Their newly developed hearing test measures a person's ability to detect across-ears (binaural) changes in sounds presented at levels of loudness that are close to those experienced in normal conversations. The binaural system plays a fundamental role in the ability to localize sounds, to understand conversation in places such as busy restaurants, and to attend to one of multiple, simultaneous sounds, UConn Today reported.

The researchers found listeners who have essentially normal clinical hearing test results may exhibit substantial deficits in binaural processing. Their study results were published in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

Bernstein notes that acquired hearing loss from excessive noise exposure has long been known to produce significant, and sometimes debilitating, hearing deficits. The new research suggests hearing loss may be more widespread than once thought.

"Our research team has been working hard to define what normal human hearing really is," Trahiotis said in the report. "Greater understanding of normal hearing and the early detection of any underlying slight hearing deficits in supposed 'normal' listeners could help practitioners have a better chance of identifying ways to slow the progression of debilitating hearing loss in one's lifetime, and even possibly finding future ways to restore it."

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