Thanks to a five-year, $12.5 million P50 Clinical Research Grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicable Disorders, Mass Eye and Ear researchers can keep exploring hidden hearing loss in humans.1
What Is Hidden Hearing Loss?
First discovered at Mass Eye and Eye in 2009, hidden hearing loss is a type of hearing damage that doesn’t appear on a traditional audiogram. An audiogram is a test that reflects the health of a patient’s inner ear hair cells. These hair cells are crucial for hearing—they transform sound into electrical signals that the auditory nerve sends to the brain.
In 2009, Mass Eye and Ear researchers found that noise exposure destroys the connections known as synapses between the hair cells and the auditory nerve before damaging the hair cells. This finding meant a patient could have ‘hidden’ hearing damage—damaged synapses—well before an audiogram would pick it up.
New Grant the Next Step in Ongoing Research
The recent grant builds upon a previous P50 grant awarded to the Mass Eye and Ear researchers in 2017. That grant led researchers to uncover significant evidence of neural degeneration hidden behind normal audiogram measurements.
The researchers discovered that perceptual disorders, ranging from difficulty with hearing in noise to tinnitus, could be linked to neural degeneration. They also found that sound deprivation could cause neural degeneration.
With the new P50 grant, researchers hope they can get closer to creating sensitive diagnostic tools that can make it possible to apply future therapeutic remedies to prevent, limit, or reverse hidden hearing loss. Your hearing is crucial to your well-being. If you are committed to taking care of your hearing health, contact Hearing Focused today at (262) 679-8888. We offer custom ear protection, thorough audiological testing, new hearing aids, and counseling for total patient satisfaction.