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Short-term hearing loss can cause long-term problem
Date:9/30/2013

BOSTON (Sept. 30, 2013) Short-term hearing loss during childhood may lead to persistent hearing deficits, long after basic auditory sensitivity has returned to normal. The processing of sound in the brain is shaped by early experience. New research from Massachusetts Eye and Ear has identified two critical periods occurring shortly after hearing onset that regulate how sounds from each ear are fused into a coherent representation in the brain. Their research is described in Nature Communications.

Hearing scientist Daniel Polley, Ph.D., an investigator at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School's Eaton-Peabody Laboratories of Auditory Physiology and collaborators found by inducing a brief, reversible hearing loss at key milestones in cortical development, they identified two critical periods occurring after hearing onset that regulate the maturation of coordinated binaural sound representations. Their work could eventually lead to a better understanding of which periods in a child's development are most crucial to maintain hearing.

Degraded sensory experience during critical periods of childhood development can have detrimental effects on the brain and behavior. In the classic example, a condition called amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) can arise when balanced visual signals are not transmitted from each eye to the brain during a critical period for visual cortex development. In this study, researchers set out to determine how temporary disruption of hearing at precise times in development affect the ability for the brain to hear once hearing is restored.

"The goal of this study was to mimic the moderate, short-term hearing loss that can accompany ear infections in human infants and then study how and when the encoding of auditory signals was disrupted in the brains of developing mice."

Much like starting up a computer, the brain "boots" itself during development beginning with the basic firmware and cul
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Contact: Mary Leach
Mary_Leach@meei.harvard.edu
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Source:Eurekalert

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