Hearing impairment affects millions of people across the globe. The most common form of preventable hearing loss is caused by exposure to excessively intense sounds; so-called "noise-induced hearing loss." This form of sensorineural hearing loss is characterized by structural damage to the delicate hair cells and their supporting structures in the cochlea. Much has been learned over the past decade about the implications of this structural damage for signal processing in the auditory periphery. How these early-stage signal-processing alterations change the integrative properties of the (non-linear) circuits in the auditory brainstem promises to be a fruitful area of on-going and future research.
(Some of) our (broad) questions in hearing impairment
- How does noise-induced cochlear hearing loss affect neural coding of complex sounds in the brainstem?
- Are changes in cochlear tuning responsible for deficits in binaural hearing following cochlear trauma?
- How does cochlear synaptopathy (loss of auditory-nerve fibers) impact signal processing in brainstem circuits?
Henry KS, Heinz MG (2012). Diminished temporal coding with sensorineural hearing loss emerges in background noise. Nature Neuroscience 15: 1362–1364.
Sayles M, Heinz MG (in press). Afferent coding and efferent control in the normal and impaired cochlea. In: Understanding the Cochlea. Manley G., Gummer A., Popper A.(Eds). Springer.