13 May 2015
Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found out how the brain balances hearing between the ears, which is essential for localising sound and protecting against noise damage.
Their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, provides new insight into hearing loss and could help improve cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Professor Gary Housley, from UNSW and senior author of the research paper, said his team wanted to understand the biological process behind the 'olivocochlear' hearing control reflex.
He said: "The balance of hearing between the ears and how we discriminate between sounds versus noise is dependent upon this neural reflex that links the cochlea of each ear via the brain's auditory control centre."
It is because of the 'cochlear amplifier' that we are able to hear a pin drop and when sound intensity increases, the olivocochlear reflex turns down the 'cochlear amplifier' to balance the input of each ear for optimal hearing, Professor Housley added.
The researchers suggest that some hearing loss related to age could be due to the gradual breakdown of this sensory fibre connection to the outer hair cells.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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