According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.5 billion people live with some degree of hearing loss. Currently, to test the severity of an individual’s hearing defect, lengthy examinations are carried out or sometimes not at all. Research conducted by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary provides a way around these hurdles.
The team has created a model that surpasses previous methods and makes the diagnosis procedure speedier and more accurate. “Prior to this study, we could either estimate the neural loss in a living patient using a lengthy test battery or measure cochlear nerve damage by removing their temporal bones when they’ve died,” said Dr. Stéphane F. Maison, lead author of the paper.
The updated method simply compared data from nearly 96,000 ear examinations which looked at the number of cochlear nerve fibers and speech tests. The combination of these data sets showed a relation between speech scores and nerve survival. “Using ordinary speech scores from hearing tests—the same ones collected in clinics all over the world—we can now estimate the number of neural fibers that are missing in a person’s ear,” adds Maison.
Two main factors contribute to how well a person can hear: audibility and intelligibility. Audibility is determined by how well hair cells in the inner ear can detect sound, and intelligibility is determined by how well these signals are transferred to the cochlear nerve and the brain. This study uses intelligibility as the main diagnosis tool, bypassing the need for complicated examinations.
This technique will allow clinicians to more accurately diagnose their patients and be better able to address their patient’s communication needs and effective strategies to put in place. Plus, will allow clinicians to more accurately assess the effectiveness of traditional and modern hearing loss interventions.
Source study: Scientific Reports – Predicting neural deficits in sensorineural hearing loss from word recognition scores