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

eing able to differentiate between different sounds in a noisy room.

Dr. Henkin and her fellow researchers set out to determine if bilateral cochlear implants were able to restore some binaural processing in the brain. Their study included three groups: children who had lost their hearing as toddlers due to illness and received bilateral cochlear implants soon afterwards; children who had been born deaf and received their first implant at around the age of four and a second approximately six years later; and a control group with normal hearing.

The researchers measured the brainwave P300, associated with auditory discrimination, while participants were asked to listen for the syllables "ta" and "ka" and were told to press a button when they heard the syllable "ta". The sounds were delivered in turn to the left ear, the right ear, and both ears at once. By comparing the P300 brainwaves identified when both ears were stimulated to the sum of brainwaves identified when each ear was stimulated separately a binaural interaction component was identified.

The researchers found a binaural interaction component in participants who had not been born deaf and had received bilateral implants at a young age. This suggested that "auditory experience prior to cochlear implantation is critical for binaural processing," says Dr. Henkin. But in the children who had only one implant for many years, the researchers found no evidence of binaural processing. It appears that the auditory deprivation that results from a long delay between implants may render the system incapable of restoring itself, explain the researchers.

Synchronized technology?

This study adds to the body of literature on how brain function is impacted by both deafness and rehabilitation, says Dr. Henkin. Currently it is not possible to coordinate the operation of separate bilateral implants, but in the future these implants may be designed to synchronize with ea
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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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