We looked at some of the points that Enrique highlighted (reduced compression, broad filters) in the context of tinnitus and found that the amount of cochlear damage in the hearing impaired can be seemingly grouped by whether or not tinnitus is perceived.
Hearing impaired individuals with perceivable tinnitus were found to have better frequency selectivity and measures of compression (using Enrique’s TMC method) compared to hearing impaired individuals who did not report tinnitus.
Of course repeats of the experiment are necessary and it is a far leap to be able to claim that one group has more OHC damage compared to the other, but the current theories of deafferentation and tinnitus, as well as some of our initial model simulations (not in the paper) point in that direction.
Link to the paper is attached:
From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception [mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Richard F. Lyon
Sent: Thursday, 7 November 2013 5:02 AM
Subject: Re: [AUDITORY] National Hearing Test
Enrique, thanks for your reply. That sounds like an excellent theory, and a good experiment that you did with the simulation.
It makes sense that hair cell and afferent damage would be correlated, but not completely so. It would be great to see tests that address each of these specifically. I suppose the audiogram pretty much addresses OHC damage, and the SNR tests address mostly other losses, which may be primarily deafferentation. I expect we'll make more specific tests to separate types of damage, over time.
On Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 9:11 AM, Enrique A. Lopez Poveda <ealopezpoveda@xxxxxxx> wrote:
Your questions are, as usual, 'spot on' and in tune with my way of thinking.
While there is evidence (some of it highlighted by Pierre and Bill) of degraded performance at high levels for normal hearing listeners, I would argue that the degradation is comparatively less for normal-hearing listeners than for hearing-impaired listeners, even though as you said normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners share common cochlear mechanical properties at high levels. Also, a paper just published (Gregan et al. 2013 JASA) suggests little correlation between residual compression and masking release. Therefore, I think that reduced compression and broader filters can explain only a (small) part of the difficulty experienced by hearing-impaired at understanding speech in noise. The question is what explains the other (larger) part. I think the answer is 'deafferentation'.
We know that age is a separate contributor to degraded performance in noise that adds on to hearing impairment. This is beautifully shown by Table I of Peters et al. (1998, JASA 103:577-587). What I find most interesting, however, is that age leads to auditory nerve deafferentation (Makary et al. 2011, JARO) and deafferentation also occurs after noise exposure (see Kujawa and Liberman 2009) even in clinically-normal individuals. Therefore, it is very likely that deafferentation occurs even more frequently and significantly for hearing-impaired individuals. We have recently shown (Lopez-Poveda and Barrios 2013 Front. Neurosci.) that degradation of the acoustic signal inspired by deafferentation can impair speech intelligibility in noise but much less so in quiet without altering audiometric thresholds. Altogether, this makes me think that deafferentation is a common, underlying cause of degraded peformance in noise for both hearing-impaired listeners and (audiometrically-normal) aged listeners. What is more, I would dare saying that deafferentation degrades performance in noise more than does reduced frequency selectivity (broader filters) and/or reduced compression. The mechanism of how deafferentation would degrade performance in noise is described in our paper (Lopez-Poveda and Barrios 2013 Front. Neurosci.).
That's my current thinking, anyhow, and here are some relevant references:
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