Do you have trouble following along and start to feel overwhelmed at family get-togethers and parties with friends? If so, you’re not alone. This is a common phenomenon for people with untreated hearing loss.
A recent study found that the presence of background noise actually causes too many brain cells to fire. We review more about the study below.
About the Study
The study, entitled “Decreased Modulation of Population Correlations in Auditory Cortex Is Associated with Decreased Auditory Detection Performance in Old Mice,” was published in the Journal of Neuroscience in December 2022. Contributing researchers are from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.
For this study, researchers worked with old and young mice. They recorded the activity of 8,078 neurons, or brain cells, in the brain’s auditory cortex region in 12 older mice, ages 16 to 24 months, and 10 younger mice, ages two to six months.
The researchers conditioned the mice to lick a water spout whenever a tone was played. They had the mice do this over silence and over white noise in the background.
In silence, the old and young mice licked the water spout consistently whenever the tone was played. But once the white noise was introduced, the old mice had difficulty detecting the tone. In some cases, they even licked the water spout before the tone was played.
The researchers saw that there was twice as much neural activity in the old mice than in the young mice when the white noise was present. In the young mice, though some neuron activity increased, others decreased.
Therefore, the old mice could not suppress the effects of the white noise on neural activity, while the young mice could.
With this study comes good news: The researchers believe that mammals’ brains have flexible learning potential that enables them to be taught to focus on individual sounds amid distracting background noise. Consider how many of us can focus on our conversation partner’s voice at Yard House on West Olympic Boulevard amid other conversations and clanking dishes. The authors acknowledge, however, more research is needed on this topic.
For more information on hearing loss treatment, such as with hearing aids, or to schedule an appointment with an expert audiologist, call The House Institute Hearing Health Centers today.