Toronto : A specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise has been identified in a move that could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss, reveal researchers.
As people age, their peripheral and central auditory system areas of the brain that help to intake and interpret sound decline in function.
The results showed that in order to adapt for hearing loss, the speech motor area of the brain’s frontal lobe steps in to help an older adult interpret someone talking in a noisy room.
“Our study was able to show that we appear to tap into the speech motor areas, regions of the brain that are important for speech articulation and production, and use that information to identify speech embedded in noise,” said Claude Alain, Assistant Director at Baycrest Health Sciences Canada-based research and education hospital.
Significant hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions in older adults that affects 90 per cent of seniors who are 80 years and older.
A loss of hearing greatly affects an older adult’s ability to socialise and their quality of life.
The finding can pave the way for programs to be designed to assist seniors with hearing loss and to adapt the way hearing aids are developed, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
“By showing there are other brain areas that affect hearing you can design training programs that target these brain areas to see if we can improve their use,” Alain added.
For the study, the team analysed the brain activity of 16 young and 16 older adults and their ability to identify syllables, while the level of noise changed in the background.