Many people who have difficulty understanding speech, particularly in noisy situations, may be misdiagnosed as having normal hearing since they can detect sounds in quiet and show normal auditory sensitivity. However, moderate loss of functional auditory nerves and their synapses, which normally carry complex sound signals from the cochlear hair cells to the brain, may account for this sort of hearing difficulty. This loss may result in a reduction in the fidelity of the temporal encoding of sounds that is crucial for understanding speech, particularly in challenging listening situations, rather than a reduction in auditory sensitivity.
This project will investigate the effects of moderate sound exposure on the auditory pathway using behavioural experiments, acute electrophysiological experiments and anatomical studies. The ultimate outcome of this project will be a clinical diagnostic tool for hearing impairment resulting from the loss of neural connections which will enable the development of clinically relevant treatments tailored to individuals.
This project would suit a student with a background in science, biomedicine or engineering (e.g., biomedical, electrical). The general methods that will be used in this project include electrophysiology, behavioural training, and histology.