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Concept: Audiogram


Recent neuroscience research suggests that tinnitus may reflect synaptic loss in the cochlea that does not express in the audiogram but leads to neural changes in auditory pathways that reduce sound level tolerance (SLT). Adolescents (N = 170) completed a questionnaire addressing their prior experience with tinnitus, potentially risky listening habits, and sensitivity to ordinary sounds, followed by psychoacoustic measurements in a sound booth. Among all adolescents 54.7% reported by questionnaire that they had previously experienced tinnitus, while 28.8% heard tinnitus in the booth. Psychoacoustic properties of tinnitus measured in the sound booth corresponded with those of chronic adult tinnitus sufferers. Neither hearing thresholds (≤15 dB HL to 16 kHz) nor otoacoustic emissions discriminated between adolescents reporting or not reporting tinnitus in the sound booth, but loudness discomfort levels (a psychoacoustic measure of SLT) did so, averaging 11.3 dB lower in adolescents experiencing tinnitus in the acoustic chamber. Although risky listening habits were near universal, the teenagers experiencing tinnitus and reduced SLT tended to be more protective of their hearing. Tinnitus and reduced SLT could be early indications of a vulnerability to hidden synaptic injury that is prevalent among adolescents and expressed following exposure to high level environmental sounds.

Concepts: Auditory system, Acoustics, Ultrasound, Ear, Sound, Audiogram, Hearing


Extensive research shows that inter-talker variability (i.e., changing the talker) affects recognition memory for speech signals. However, relatively little is known about the consequences of intra-talker variability (i.e. changes in speaking style within a talker) on the encoding of speech signals in memory. It is well established that speakers can modulate the characteristics of their own speech and produce a listener-oriented, intelligibility-enhancing speaking style in response to communication demands (e.g., when speaking to listeners with hearing impairment or non-native speakers of the language). Here we conducted two experiments to examine the role of speaking style variation in spoken language processing. First, we examined the extent to which clear speech provided benefits in challenging listening environments (i.e. speech-in-noise). Second, we compared recognition memory for sentences produced in conversational and clear speaking styles. In both experiments, semantically normal and anomalous sentences were included to investigate the role of higher-level linguistic information in the processing of speaking style variability. The results show that acoustic-phonetic modifications implemented in listener-oriented speech lead to improved speech recognition in challenging listening conditions and, crucially, to a substantial enhancement in recognition memory for sentences.

Concepts: Linguistics, Language, Grammar, Audiogram, Hearing, Speech recognition, Speech, Speech processing


Domestic dogs can suffer from hearing losses that can have profound impacts on working ability and quality of life. We have identified a type of adult-onset hearing loss in Border Collies that appears to have a genetic cause, with an earlier age of onset (3-5 years) than typically expected for aging dogs (8-10 years). Studying this complex trait within pure breeds of dog may greatly increase our ability to identify genomic regions associated with risk of hearing impairment in dogs and in humans. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to detect loci underlying adult-onset deafness in a sample of 20 affected and 28 control Border Collies. We identified a region on canine chromosome 6 that demonstrates extended support for association surrounding SNP Chr6.25819273 (p-value = 1.09×10(-13)). To further localize disease-associated variants, targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) of one affected and two unaffected dogs was performed. Through additional validation based on targeted genotyping of additional cases (n = 23 total) and controls (n = 101 total) and an independent replication cohort of 16 cases and 265 controls, we identified variants in USP31 that were strongly associated with adult-onset deafness in Border Collies, suggesting the involvement of the NF-κB pathway. We found additional support for involvement of RBBP6, which is critical for cochlear development. These findings highlight the utility of GWAS-guided fine-mapping of genetic loci using targeted NGS to study hereditary disorders of the domestic dog that may be analogous to human disorders.

Concepts: Genetics, Cochlea, Hearing impairment, Genome-wide association study, Audiogram, Dog, Dog breed, Dog health


Auditory training involves active listening to auditory stimuli and aims to improve performance in auditory tasks. As such, auditory training is a potential intervention for the management of people with hearing loss.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Auditory system, Hearing impairment, Audiogram, Hearing, Active listening


Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States, and is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer (1). Occupational hearing loss, primarily caused by high noise exposure, is the most common U.S. work-related illness (2). Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous occupational noise (3). CDC compared the prevalence of hearing impairment within nine U.S. industry sectors using 1,413,789 noise-exposed worker audiograms from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project (4). CDC estimated the prevalence at six hearing impairment levels, measured in the better ear, and the impact on quality of life expressed as annual disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), as defined by the 2013 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study (5). The mining sector had the highest prevalence of workers with any hearing impairment, and with moderate or worse impairment, followed by the construction and manufacturing sectors. Hearing loss prevention, and early detection and intervention to avoid additional hearing loss, are critical to preserve worker quality of life.

Concepts: United States, U.S. state, Hearing impairment, World Health Organization, Audiogram, Occupational safety and health, Disability-adjusted life year, Disease burden


Background Rates of hearing preservation following surgery via middle fossa craniotomy in patients harboring tumors with unfavorable characteristics are significantly lower than for those patients with “favorable” tumors. Objectives We will present two cases both with unfavorable conditions, which underwent endoscopic-assisted middle fossa craniotomy (MFC) resection of intracanalicular vestibular schwannomas with preserved postoperative hearing. Methods Chart reviews were conducted on both patients. Their presentation, intraoperative details, and techniques, pre- and postoperative audiograms, and facial nerve outcomes are presented. Results Patient A had 5.6 × 6.8 × 13.2 mm intracanalicular tumor with unserviceable hearing (pure tone audiometry [PTA], 41; speech determination score [SDS], 47%; class D) but was blind so hearing preservation was attempted. Postoperative hearing was preserved (PTA, 47; SDS, 60%; class B). Patient B had a 5 mm round intracanalicular tumor immediately adjacent to the vestibule and cochlea without any fundal fluid present. Preoperative audiogram showed serviceable hearing (PTA, 48; SDS, 88%; class B). Postoperatively, aidable hearing was preserved (PTA, 51; SDS, 76%; class C). Conclusion Hearing preservation surgery via MFC can be enhanced with endoscopic-assisted dissection, especially in the lateral internal auditory canal. The superior optical view allows for preservation of cochlear nerve function and removal of residual tumor not otherwise seen on microscopy.

Concepts: Auditory system, Cochlea, Cranial nerves, Audiogram, Pure tone audiometry, Vestibular schwannoma, Schwannoma, Internal auditory meatus


A growing interest in cognitive effects associated with speech and hearing processes is spreading throughout the scientific community essentially guided by evidence that central and peripheral hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline. For the present research, 125 participants older than 65 years of age (105 with hearing impairment and 20 with normal hearing) were enrolled, divided into 6 groups according to their degree of hearing loss and assessed to determine the effects of the treatment applied. Patients in our research program routinely undergo an extensive audiological and cognitive evaluation protocol providing results from the Digit Span test, Stroop color-word test, Montreal Cognitive Assessment and Geriatric Depression Scale, before and after rehabilitation. Data analysis was performed for a cross-sectional and longitudinal study of the outcomes for the different treatment groups. Each group demonstrated improvement after auditory rehabilitation or training on short- and long-term memory tasks, level of depression and cognitive status scores. Auditory rehabilitation by cochlear implants or hearing aids is effective also among older adults (median age of 74 years) with different degrees of hearing loss, and enables positive improvements in terms of social isolation, depression and cognitive performance.

Concepts: Cognition, Gerontology, Cochlea, Hearing impairment, Cochlear implant, Otology, Audiogram, Models of deafness


BACKGROUND Whether hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults is unknown. METHODS We studied 1984 older adults (mean age, 77.4 years) enrolled in the Health ABC Study, a prospective observational study begun in 1997-1998. Our baseline cohort consisted of participants without prevalent cognitive impairment (Modified Mini-Mental State Examination [3MS] score, ≥80) who underwent audiometric testing in year 5. Participants were followed up for 6 years. Hearing was defined at baseline using a pure-tone average of thresholds at 0.5 to 4 kHz in the better-hearing ear. Cognitive testing was performed in years 5, 8, 10, and 11 and consisted of the 3MS (measuring global function) and the Digit Symbol Substitution test (measuring executive function). Incident cognitive impairment was defined as a 3MS score of less than 80 or a decline in 3MS score of more than 5 points from baseline. Mixed-effects regression and Cox proportional hazards regression models were adjusted for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors. RESULTS In total, 1162 individuals with baseline hearing loss (pure-tone average >25 dB) had annual rates of decline in 3MS and Digit Symbol Substitution test scores that were 41% and 32% greater, respectively, than those among individuals with normal hearing. On the 3MS, the annual score changes were -0.65 (95% CI, -0.73 to -0.56) vs -0.46 (95% CI, -0.55 to -0.36) points per year (P = .004). On the Digit Symbol Substitution test, the annual score changes were -0.83 (95% CI, -0.94 to -0.73) vs -0.63 (95% CI, -0.75 to -0.51) points per year (P = .02). Compared to those with normal hearing, individuals with hearing loss at baseline had a 24% (hazard ratio, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.05-1.48) increased risk for incident cognitive impairment. Rates of cognitive decline and the risk for incident cognitive impairment were linearly associated with the severity of an individual’s baseline hearing loss. CONCLUSIONS Hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older adults. Further studies are needed to investigate what the mechanistic basis of this association is and whether hearing rehabilitative interventions could affect cognitive decline.

Concepts: Psychology, Regression analysis, Proportional hazards models, Observational study, Cognition, Hearing impairment, Audiogram, Numerical digit


The rapid growth of aquaculture raises questions about the welfare status of mass-produced species. Sagittal otoliths are primary hearing structures in the inner ear of all teleost (bony) fishes and are normally composed of aragonite, though abnormal vaterite replacement is sometimes seen in the wild. We provide the first widespread evaluation of the prevalence of vaterite in otoliths, showing that farmed fish have levels of vaterite replacement over 10 times higher than wild fish, regardless of species. We confirm this observation with extensive sampling of wild and farmed Atlantic salmon in Norway, the world’s largest producer, and verify that vateritic otoliths are common in farmed salmon worldwide. Using a mechanistic model of otolith oscillation in response to sound, we demonstrate that average levels of vaterite replacement result in a 28-50% loss of otolith functionality across most of a salmonid’s known hearing range and throughout its life cycle. The underlying cause(s) of vaterite formation remain unknown, but the prevalence of hearing impairment in farmed fish has important implications for animal welfare, the survival of escapees and their effects on wild populations, and the efficacy of restocking programs based on captive-bred fish.

Concepts: Fish, Auditory system, Salmon, Ear, Inner ear, Audiogram, Aquaculture, Otolith


Dietary supplements consisting of beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), vitamins C and E and the mineral magnesium (ACEMg) can be beneficial for reducing hearing loss due to aminoglycosides and overstimulation. This regimen also slowed progression of deafness for a boy with GJB2 (CONNEXIN 26) mutations. To assess the potential for treating GJB2 and other forms of hereditary hearing loss with ACEMg, we tested the influence of ACEMg on the cochlea and hearing of mouse models for two human mutations: GJB2, the leading cause of childhood deafness, and DIAPH3, a cause of auditory neuropathy. One group of mice modeling GJB2 (Gjb2-CKO) received ACEMg diet starting shortly after they were weaned (4 weeks) until 16 weeks of age. Another group of Gjb2-CKO mice received ACEMg in utero and after weaning. The ACEMg diet was given to mice modeling DIAPH3 (Diap3-Tg) after weaning (4 weeks) until 12 weeks of age. Control groups received food pellets without the ACEMg supplement. Hearing thresholds measured by auditory brainstem response were significantly better for Gjb2-CKO mice fed ACEMg than for the control diet group. In contrast, Diap3-Tg mice displayed worse thresholds than controls. These results indicate that ACEMg supplementation can influence the progression of genetic hearing loss.

Concepts: Vitamin, Dietary supplement, Cochlea, Hearing impairment, Cochlear implant, Audiogram, Hearing