Animal studies on hearing loss might benefit humans

Roughly 36 million Americans are hearing-impaired or deaf. Researchers at Purdue University reported their findings from a study in animals that found almost no difference in quiet settings between the sound processing ability of chinchill

as with or without damage in the cochlea — the part of the inner ear that transforms sound into electrical messages to the brain.

But when they listened to the same tones in noisy settings, there were distinct differences in the way sound pulses were coded into the brain through different channels for various frequencies. In effect, the noisy setting threw off the ability of neurons in the cochlea to synchronize with the sound receiving channels in the brain, leaving the sounds more scattered and fuzzy because a limited number of healthy neurons are trying to focus on too many sound sources. Find out more about the results of this research and the possible implications.