Last year, The ASHA Leader published a cover story on age-related decline in people’s ability to hear speech in noisy environments. Interest in and research about this issue continue to increase, as seen in a long feature from “The Wall Street Journal” earlier this week. The story includes information from several recent scientific studies on why and how this happens to many 40- and 50-somethings.
Basically, this type of hearing disorder affects the ability to follow a conversation in a noisy place. Damaged or deteriorated cochlea cause most age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. However, the research noted in this article links this particular type of selective hearing loss to damaged ribbon synapses, which connect the cochlea to nerves transmitting sounds to the brain. In addition, the research suggests a connection between damaged synapses and tinnitus or hyperacusis.
Anne Oyler, ASHA’s associate director for audiology, was quoted in the article. She shared her thoughts about the implications of these recent studies: “This is something we’ve recognized for a long time—and this research tells us why it’s happening. Audiologists will have to start actively looking for this disorder.”
Read more about advances in hearing loss research, including an earlier study by the same researchers:
Frank Lin’s research ties hearing loss to dementia, with big implications for public health: Unbundled, accessible audiology services and reimbursement for audiologic rehabilitation could be key, he says, to battling cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.