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

minating with higher-level software elements. Unlike a computer, the brain relies on experience from the surrounding sensory environment to complete its startup process. If sensory experience is degraded during these critical periods in early life, as would occur with a visual cataract or conductive hearing loss that can accompany an ear infection, the brain's representation of the sensory world can be distorted in a specific and enduring way, even after the physical deficit in the eye or ear has been corrected. In this study, researchers found that creating a temporary hearing loss one day after hearing begun disrupted the basic alignment of sound frequency selectivity in the mouse cortex, whereas the same manipulation initiated just a few days later interfered with the neural computation of loudness differences between the ears.

"These findings demonstrate that brief bouts of asymmetric hearing loss during very specific points in postnatal development can have a lasting effect on brain circuits that compare and integrate the sound waves that enter each ear," said Dr. Polly. "According to pediatric audiology studies and the latest U.S. census data, approximately 12% of children (or 2.6 million children in the United States alone) will experience at least one bout of otitis media severe enough to cause a brief, mild conductive hearing loss before reaching five years of age. Though our study was conducted in an animal model, these data support a growing body of work that underscores the importance of minimizing hearing loss or excessive environmental noise for healthy infant brain development."


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Contact: Mary Leach
Mary_Leach@meei.harvard.edu
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Source:Eurekalert

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