Nerve fibers that link perception and motor regions of the brain are disconnected in tone-deaf people, according to new research in the August 19 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Experts estimate that at least 10 percent of the population may be tone deaf - unable to sing in tune. The new finding identifies a particular brain circuit that appears to be absent in these individuals. "The anomaly suggests that tone-deafness may be a previously undetected neurological syndrome similar to other speech and language disorders, in which connections between perceptual and motor regions are impaired, " said Psyche Loui, PhD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, one of the study's authors.
Anyone with an MP3 device -- just about every man, woman and child on the planet today, it seems -- has a notion of the majesty of music, of the primal place it holds in the human imagination. But musical training should not be seen simply as stuff of the soul -- a frill that has to go when school budgets dry up, according to a new Northwestern University study. The study shows that musicians -- trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies -- are primed to understand speech in a noisy background, say in a restaurant, classroom or plane. It is the first demonstration of musical training offsetting the deleterious effects of background noise, and the implications are provocative.
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is advising members of the Armed Forces to be aware of the dangers of excessive noise while they are undergoing training and intense combat. The warning comes as a soldier who had suffered permanent hearing loss and tinnitus in one ear as a result of exposure to excessive noise, during basic training, was highlighted in the media this week. The 22 year old soldier was ordered to not use ear defenders during a live firing exercise in 2004, and this led to him experiencing 'fuzzy noises' in his left ear and ultimately being discharged from the army on medical grounds in 2007. According to research published in October 2008 by The Times newspaper, hearing loss and tinnitus is a common problem among those working in the Armed Forces.
On Wednesday, August 26th, the American Hearing Research Foundation together with Northwestern University will present a lecture on hearing, hearing loss and hearing loss therapies entitled "What You Always Wanted to Know About Hearing: Ask a Doctor." The lecture will be given by former AHRF grant recipient Claus-Peter Richter, M.D., Ph.D., and Andrew Fishman, M.D. The lecture will take place at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Feinberg Pavilion, 3rd floor conference center rooms B and C from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Feinberg Pavilion is at 251 E. Huron, Chicago. Claus-Peter Richter, M.D., Ph.D. is assistant professor of otolaryngology at Northwestern and specializes in otologic research.
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have succeeded for the first time in devising a model that describes and identifies a basic cellular mechanism that enables networks of neurons to efficiently decode speech in changing conditions. The research may lead to the upgrading of computer algorithms for faster and more precise speech recognition as well as to the development of innovative treatments for auditory problems among adults and young people. Our brain has the capability to process speech and other complex auditory stimuli and to make sense of them, even when the sound signals reach our ears in a slowed, accelerated or distorted manner.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants act as tiny amplifiers so the deaf and hard-of-hearing can make sense of voices and music. Unfortunately, these devices also amplify background sound, so they're less effective in a noisy environment like a busy workplace or cafĂ. But help is on the way. Prof. Miriam Furst-Yust of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering has developed a new software application named "Clearcall" for cochlear implants and hearing aids which improves speech recognition for the hard-of-hearing by up to 50%. "Hearing-impaired people have a real problem understanding speech, " says Prof. Furst-Yust. "Their devices may be useful in a quiet room, but once the background noise levels ramp up, the devices become less useful.