Your Ears Inform the Brain if Hearing is Impaired
The Summating Potential Polarity Encodes The Ear Health Condition
Synopsis: DC signal polarity changes from positive to negative when the cochlea has been exposed to harmful noise and this signal can provide an indication of ear health status. Being repeatedly exposed to loud sounds may cause permanent damage to hearing. There is research to indicate that more than one billion young people are at risk of damaging their hearing by listening to loud music with headphones and at venues. Pierre Hakizimana at Linköping University is one of the researchers aiming to find out how these damages occur and whether they can be prevented.
The cochlea is a fluid-filled, spiral-shaped cavity found in the inner ear that plays a vital role in the sense of hearing and participates in the process of auditory transduction. Sound waves are transduced into electrical impulses that the brain can interpret as individual sound frequencies. The spiral configuration of the cochlea allows for differing frequencies to stimulate specific areas along the spiral, which results in a tonotopic map that enables humans to perceive various frequencies of sound. The cochlear nerve (auditory nerve or acoustic nerve) is one of two parts of the vestibulocochlear nerve, a cranial nerve present in amniotes, the other part being the vestibular nerve. The cochlear nerve carries auditory sensory information from the cochlea of the inner ear directly to the brain. The other portion of the vestibulocochlear nerve is the vestibular nerve, which carries spatial orientation information to the brain from the semicircular canals, also known as semicircular ducts.
"The Summating Potential Polarity Encodes The Ear Health Condition" - Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.
A cochlear signal, the exact role of which has been unclear since its discovery around 70 years ago, probably gives the brain information on whether the ear is functioning normally or not. This is the conclusion of a study from Linköping University, Sweden. Its findings are an important piece of the puzzle in explaining what happens in the ear in hearing impairment caused by harmful noise, and may in the long run contribute to diagnosing noise-induced hearing injury.
When the ear is exposed to loud sounds, as at a concert or when being in a noisy environment, hearing can be temporarily impaired.
Being repeatedly exposed to loud sounds may cause permanent damage to hearing. There is research to indicate that more than one billion young people are at risk of damaging their hearing by listening to loud music with headphones and at venues. But although noise damage is a major cause of impaired hearing, the exact mechanisms are largely unclear. Pierre Hakizimana at Linköping University is one of the researchers aiming to find out how these damages occur and whether they can be prevented.
The inner ear, or cochlea, has around 15,000 hair cells. When hit by sound waves, the hair cells transform the vibrations to electric nerve signals. These signals are led to the brain, which interprets them, and not until then can we hear the sound. The hair cell signal consists of two parts, called AC and DC.
The AC signal is well researched. It gives the brain information on sound loudness and frequency, i.e. how high or low pitched the sound is.
The DC signal has remained something of a mystery. Ever since its discovery some 70 years ago, researchers have been wondering what its function could be.
When measuring the electrical signals from the cochlea hair cells, the DC signal is noticeable as it causes a slight shift in the AC signal in either a positive or a negative direction. Various studies trying to characterise the DC signal have come to different conclusions as to its polarity. In the current study, Pierre Hakizimana shows that DC signal polarity changes from positive to negative when the cochlea has been exposed to harmful noise. In other words, the signal can provide an indication of ear health status.
"It seems like this signal could be a way for the body to inform the brain whether the ear is healthy or not, and in that way facilitate the brain's ability to decode faint sounds. The brain can amplify a weak signal from the cochlea. If informed that the ear isn't functioning normally, the brain doesn't have to spend resources trying to improve the signal to decode sound from an injured ear," says Pierre Hakizimana, principal research engineer in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University.
This discovery may hopefully contribute to new research on how the DC signal could be used to diagnose hearing loss caused by harmful noise. This has so far not been solved, as it has not been known how to interpret this signal, or how to reliably isolate and measure it in humans.
In his study, Pierre Hakizimana also shows that the DC signal is created by potassium ion channels releasing potassium ions through hair cell membranes.
The summating potential polarity encodes the ear health condition, Pierre Hakizimana, (2023), Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 80, 163 (2023), published online 24 May 2023. The research was funded by Stiftelsen Tysta Skolan.
Resources That Provide Relevant Related Information
- AC/DC and Concert Sound Levels Hearing Damage Warning
- Harder to Hear in Noisy Environments for Hearing Impaired
- Hybrid Cochlear Implants May Benefit Millions
This peer reviewed experimental study article relating to our Deafness and Hearing Loss section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Your Ears Inform the Brain if Hearing is Impaired" was originally written by Linköping University, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2023/07/05. Should you require further information or clarification, Linköping University can be contacted at liu.se/en. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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Cite This Page (APA): Linköping University. (2023, July 5). Your Ears Inform the Brain if Hearing is Impaired. Disabled World. Retrieved October 4, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/hearing/hearing-brain.php