The phrase "perk up your ears" made more sense last year after scientists discovered how the quietest sounds are amplified in the cochlea before being transmitted to the brain. When a sound is barely audible, extremely sensitive inner-ear "hair cells" - which are neurons equipped with tiny, sensory hairs on their surface - pump up the sound by their very motion and mechanically amplify it. Richard Rabbitt of the University of Utah, a faculty member in the MBL's Biology of the Inner Ear course, reported last spring on the magnification powers of the hair cell's hairs. Now, Rabbitt and MBL senior scientist Stephen Highstein have evidence that hair cells perform similarly in another context - in the vestibular system, which sends information about balance and spatial orientation to the brain.
Children who have cochlear implants (CI) rank their quality of life (QOL) equal to their normally hearing (NH) peers, indicates new research in the February 2010 issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that restores partial hearing to the deaf. It is surgically implanted in the inner ear and activated by a device worn outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sound louder or clearer. Instead, the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing deaf or severely hard of hearing individuals to receive sound. The National Institutes of Health estimate that as many as 59, 000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants, with roughly half of those in the pediatric population.
In 2009 a student research project investigating a low frequency therapy for temporary tinnitus was joint runner-up in the 2009 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, held in Dublin, Ireland. The student research project which has now evolved into a web-based company, Restored Hearing was one of the companies which showcased recently at the 2010 exhibition. In 2009 Eimear O'Carroll, Rhona Togher, Niamh Chapman, then 6th Year Leaving Certificate students in the Ursuline College, Sligo, NW Ireland, together with Anthony Carolan, their physics teacher entered the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2009 with a project entitled 'The Sound of Silence An Investigation into Low Frequency Therapy for Tinnitus Sufferers'.
New research shows our brains are a lot more chaotic than previously thought, and that this might be a good thing. Neurobiologists at the University of Maryland have discovered information about how the brain processes sound that challenges previous understandings of the auditory cortex that suggested an organization based on precise neuronal maps. In the first study of the auditory cortex conducted using advanced imaging techniques, Patrick Kanold, Assistant Professor of Biology, Shihab Shamma, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Systems Research (ISR), and Sharba Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Research Scientist (ISR), describe a much more complex picture of neuronal activity.
Listening to an iPod while working out feels like second nature to many people, but University of Alberta researcher Bill Hodgetts says we need to consider the volume levels in our earphones while working up a sweat. Hodgetts, assistant professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, says his research has found that exercising in a gym often prompts people to turn up the volume to potentially unsafe levels for the ear. The researcher found that the study participants, who were in a gym-like setting, listened at potentially dangerous levels while working out, likely due to the presence of background noise.
A type of antibiotic that can cause hearing loss in people has been found to paradoxically protect the ears when given in extended low doses in very young mice. The surprise finding came from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who looked to see if loud noise and the antibiotic kanamycin together would produce a bigger hearing loss than either factor by itself. The results will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and are now available online. "The protective effect of this type of antibiotic is a previously unknown phenomenon that now leads to at least a dozen important questions about what mechanisms cause hearing loss and what mechanisms could be protective, " says senior author William W.