I will discuss results and the implications of our recent findings related to human cochlear synaptopathy, the loss of synapses between inner hair cells and auditory nerve fibres. Synaptopathy, or hidden hearing loss, does not affect threshold sensitivity and therefore cannot be diagnosed using pure tone audiogram. Pure tone audiometry, although commonly used in clinical practice, is also unable to diagnose extensive loss of inner hair cells or auditory nerve fibres, a condition known as cochlear dead regions. I will discuss implications of the presence of inner hair cell loss on auditory function, and challenges associated with its diagnosis in infants, who require objective electrophysiological methods. I will also present the pros and cons of using Auditory Steady-State Responses to diagnose cochlear dead regions based on recent data collected in my lab. I will also discuss the usefulness of speech Auditory Brainstem Responses to verify the effectiveness of hearing aids and cochlear implants. Finally, is all hearing cochlear? Recently, we have shown that the vestibular organ contributes to hearing. Thus, is it possible that we enjoy loud music because of hidden vestibular hearing and by doing so cause hidden hearing loss?
Karolina Kluk is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester and is an expert in psychoacoustics and electrophysiology of hearing impairment. She completed her PhD in psychoacoustics at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Professor Brian CJ Moore. She was awarded the Pauline Ashley Prize from Deafness Research UK, which allowed her to spend six months at the Evoked Response Laboratory of Professor Terry Picton at the University of Toronto, where she gained experience of electrophysiological techniques for human auditory research. Her independent research started in 2006, when she became a Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Her research falls within two core themes that can be classified as auditory neuroscience (fundamental research relating to basic auditory function and cross interaction between auditory and vestibular systems) and translational hearing science (applied translational research focused around objective hearing-function assessment). Her work is funded by research grants from a variety of sources including the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), charities and international industries. She is an Associate Lead for Optimised Hearing Assessment Theme of Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and a Hearing Health Lead within Rapid Translation Incubator of BRC. Karolina also Leads the School of Health Sciences Athena SWAN (Athena Scientific Women’s Academic Network) team, championing equality and diversity in academia.