One of the most common, chronic health conditions in aging adults is hearing loss. Hearing loss has an effect on 90% of seniors who are over the age of 80. We know that as people age, the parts of the brain that intake and interpret sound (the peripheral and central auditory system) decline in function. Up until now, researchers were not sure which parts of the brain were responsible for the loss of hearing.
Knowing the specific areas of the brain that is responsible for differentiating sounds in background noise could positively transform hearing loss treatment, and can help improve the living conditions of aging adults. Researchers at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences have recently identified the part of the brain that can compensate for hearing loss in aging adults. Thanks to this research, we can now pinpoint the areas of the brain that is responsible for compensation when there are declines in the peripheral and central auditory system.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers investigated the brain activity for 16 young and older adults, and for both groups, observed their capability to distinguish syllables with varying background noise levels during a hearing test. During the study, researchers learned that as the peripheral and central auditory systems deteriorate and decline in function, the speech motor area found in the brain’s frontal lobe cortex help “pick up the slack.” Helping the individual pick up and differentiate speech sounds when surrounded by background noise. The findings show that it’s the areas of your brain that is utilized for speech production and articulation that helps identify speech patterns when it’s embedded in noise.
Hearing loss can significantly affect a person’s well-being and quality of life, but with recent discoveries and breakthroughs, hearing loss can become less detrimental for those affected. These findings can help improve the development of hearing aids and will help pave the way for assisting the aging public with hearing loss.