Researchers Discover Brain Reorganizes After Hearing Loss

From a 2015 article from HearingReview.com, researchers discover that the brain reorganizes after hearing loss:

Researchers exploring the ways in which our brains respond to hearing loss have found that the brain reorganizes, which may be related to a link between age-related hearing loss and dementia. According to a presentation at the 169th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) held May 18-22 in Pittsburgh, Pa, researchers suggest that the portion of the brain devoted to hearing can be reassigned to other functions, even with early-stage hearing loss, and may play a role in cognitive decline.

Anu Sharma, PhD, a researcher in the Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science at University of Colorado, applied fundamental principles of neuroplasticity to determine how the brain adapts to hearing loss, and the consequences of those changes. Sharma and colleagues in the Brain and Behavior Laboratory used electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of adults and children with deafness and lesser hearing loss to gain insights into the ways their brains respond differently from those with normal hearing.

The EEG recordings involve placing multiple tiny sensors on the scalp, allowing researchers to measure brain activity in response to sound simulation. For the study, sound simulation, such as recorded speech syllables, was delivered via speakers to elicit a response in the form of "brain waves" that originate in the auditory cortex - the most important center for processing speech and language - and other areas of the brain. "We can examine certain biomarkers of cortical functioning, which tell us how the hearing portion of a deaf person's brain is functioning compared to a person with normal hearing," Sharma said. Continue reading article