Opening windows to the listening brain

Background

The methods currently used to detect and treat hearing damage focus on sensory impairment – an impaired ability to detect very quiet sounds. However, this is limiting because people both with and without ‘normal’ ability to detect sounds may still suffer from disabling problems understanding speech and other complex sounds

Our research

We are developing tools that can detect ‘signatures’ of neural degeneration in brain signals recorded from the scalp. These tools focus on detecting neural activity that supports functional hearing ability, rather than only sensory impairment.

We are currently testing research participants with different hearing losses and ages. The goal of this research is to develop an objective measure of the ability of the auditory system to encode temporal (timing) fine structure to optimise the benefits that hearing devices can provide. With further development, similar measures could also be used to detect changes to functional hearing due to neuronal degradation before the onset of permanent threshold shifts and hearing loss.

Research team

Principal investigators – Dr Hamish Innes-Brown, Prof Colette McKay

Funding

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (HI-B), FWO (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen) Marie Curie Pegasus Fellowship (HI-B), Marion & EH Flack Trust

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