Hearing Loss & Brain Tissue

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois have found that hearing loss may lead to permanent changes in the brain.

Faculty member, Fatima Husain, who led the research said the results suggest “that functional changes due to sensory deprivation may result in long-term structural changes. However, in the case of tinnitus, surprisingly, there were few changes to brain structure despite changes to function, suggesting that when sensory deprivation is accompanied by self-generated noise, it may be better at preserving neural tissue.”

The study measured neuroanatomical changes in gray and white matter in the brains of participants with only bilateral hearing loss, participants who had hearing loss and tinnitus, and a control group with normal hearing without tinnitus.

“We observed that the hearing loss group had the most profound changes in both white and gray matter relative to the other groups,” Husain said. “The gray matter decreases seen in the hearing loss group relative to the normal hearing group were in the anterior cingulate, putamen and middle frontal gyrus.”

The researchers concluded that “hearing loss rather than tinnitus had the greatest impact on gray versus white matter alterations.”

Tammara Stender, Au.D., GN ReSoundReSound’s Tammy Stender, Senior Audiologist, says: “What the researchers found makes sense, and supports previous research about sensory deprivation and its effects on the brain. It seems intuitive that providing sound stimulation to the brain through amplification may help maintain a less altered brain structure.”

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