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Two bionic ears are better than the sum of their parts
Date:9/20/2012

Cochlear implants electronic devices surgically implanted in the ear to help provide a sense of sound have been successfully used since the late 1980's. But questions remain as to whether bilateral cochlear implants, placed in each ear rather than the traditional single-ear implant, are truly able to facilitate binaural hearing. Now, Tel Aviv University researchers have proof that under certain conditions, this practice has the ability to salvage binaural sound processing for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

According to Dr. Yael Henkin of TAU's Department of Communication Disorders at the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions and Head of The Hearing, Speech, and Language Center at Sheba Medical Center, and her colleagues Prof. Minka Hildesheimer, Yifat Yaar-Soffer, and Lihi Givon, the brain unites incoming sound from each ear at the brainstem through what is called "binaural processing." "When we hear with both ears, we have an efficient auditory system," she explains. Binaural processing provides improved ease of listening, sound localization, and the ability to understand speech in noisy surroundings.

In their study, the researchers looked at children who had lost their hearing at a young age and were not born deaf. Those who were provided with bilateral cochlear implants exhibited true binaural processing, similar to that of their normal hearing peers. In contrast, deaf-at-birth children who received their first cochlear implant at young age and their second after long delay, did not exhibit binaural processing.

The research was recently reported in the journal Cochlear Implants International.

Pairing up

More than a matter of symmetry, our two ears function together to create a whole picture of the sound that surrounds us. The integration of information from both ears not only saves neuronal energy, it is the key to different aspects of hearing, such as locating the source of individual sounds and b
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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