Can Darkness Help Hearing Loss in Infants?

It is widely known that when you lose one sense, your other senses may become sharper. So, what if you could cure hearing loss by temporarily removing the ability to see?

Source: The Hearing Review
Source: The Hearing Review

This is what researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University have been exploring in adult mice.  According to the journal, Neuron, “when these mice were kept in the dark for about a week, neural networks in the auditory cortex, where sound is processed, strengthened their connections from the thalamus, the mid-brain’s switchboard for sensory information. As a result, the mice developed sharper hearing.”

Researchers believe that it may be possible to re-wire the brains of young children to improve hearing.  As with vision, there is a critical period when children are young in which these kinds of changes are possible.  Once that critical period is past, the auditory system doesn’t respond to changes in the individual’s soundscape.

According to Patrick Kanold, an associate profession or biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, these findings may lead to a new treatments for people with hearing loss or tinnitus.

Source: The Hearing Review and Neuron.

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