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Is there a musical method for interpreting speech? 

Researchers evaluated whether musicians had an advantage in understanding and reciting degraded speech as compared to nonmusicians

WASHINGTON, D.C. December 7, 2017 -- Cochlear implants have been a common method of correcting sensorineural hearing loss for individuals with damage to their brain, inner ear, or auditory nerves. The implanted devices use an electrode array that is inserted into the cochlea and assists in stimulating auditory nerve fibers. However, the speech patterns heard with the use of a cochlear implant are often spectrally degraded and can be difficult to understand. Vocoded speech, or distorted speech that imitates voice transduction by a cochlear implant, is used throughout acoustic and auditory research to explore speech comprehension under various conditions.

Researchers will present their work on the effect of musical experience on the ability to understand vocoded speech at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, being held Dec. 4-8, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Musical ability, described by a person's aptitude for playing an instrument, interpreting sound patterns or recognizing different tones, has long been linked to higher cognitive capacity and better communication skills.

"We are testing to see if someone's musicality or levels of musical experience affects their perceptions of vocoded speech,"Kieren Laursen of Lawrence University said in an email. "So, the question lies in how does music affect one's abilities to hear different pitches, intonations, and rhythms within distorted speech." Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, December 7, 2017 (retrieved December 12, 2017)


Is age-related hearing loss associated with increased risk for cognitive decline, dementia?

Age-related hearing loss may be a risk factor for cognitive decline, impairment and dementia.

Why the tesearch is interesting: Age-related hearing loss is common. Research about a link between age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline and dementia has been inconsistent. Understanding any possible association between hearing loss and cognitive decline could help with strategies to prevent cognitive decline and dementia with use of hearing assist devices.

Who was studied: 20,264 participants in 36 studies

What the study measured: Age-related hearing loss (exposure) and measures of cognitive function, cognitive impairment, and dementia (outcomes).

How the study was designed: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis. A meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies identified in a systematic review and quantitatively summarizes the overall association between the same exposure and outcomes measured across all studies.

Results: There was a small association between age-related hearing loss and increased risk for cognitive decline (such as in executive function, episodic memory and processing speed), cognitive impairment and dementia.

Study limitations: The studies analyzed were observational and cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Source: EurekAlert, December 7, 2017


Want to listen better? Lend a right ear

Researchers at Auburn University in Alabama have found that the right ear is the gateway for optimal auditory information processing in both children and adults

Displays an example of dichotic digit stimuli presentation, with both 'A' binaural separation tasks (i.e., directed ear) and 'B' binaural integration (i.e., free recall) instructions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. December 6, 2017 -- Listening is a complicated task. It requires sensitive hearing and the ability to process information into cohesive meaning. Add everyday background noise and constant interruptions by other people, and the ability to comprehend what is heard becomes that much more difficult.

Audiology researchers at Auburn University in Alabama have found that in such demanding environments, both children and adults depend more on their right ear for processing and retaining what they hear.

Danielle Sacchinelli will present this research with her colleagues at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dec. 4-8.

"The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening effort in general, the better diagnostic tools, auditory management (including hearing aids) and auditory training will become," Sacchinelli said.

The research team's work is based on dichotic listening tests, used to diagnose, among other conditions, auditory processing disorders in which the brain has difficulty processing what is heard. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, December 6, 2017


Working memory positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function

Suboptimal cardiovascular health, smoking are associated with less cohesive brain network

(New York - Dec. 5, 2017) -- Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory -- the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand -- and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function.

These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating suboptimal cardiovascular and metabolic health, and suboptimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.

This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and lifestyle choices. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, December 5, 2017


Do your ears hang low? The complex genetics behind earlobe attachment

University of Pittsburgh scientists found that at least 49 genes underlie earlobe attachment.

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 30, 2017 - A common, hands-on method for teaching genetics in grade school encourages students to compare their earlobes with those of their parents: Are they attached and smoothly mesh with the jawline? Or are they detached and dangly? The answer is meant to teach students about dominant and recessive genes.

Simple, right? Not so fast.

New research led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and School of Dental Medicine, and published online today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, reveals that the lesson is much more complicated, with an interplay of at least 49 genes contributing to earlobe attachment.

"Sometimes the genetics of a fairly simple trait are actually quite complex," said lead author John R. Shaffer, Ph.D., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Human Genetics and the Department of Oral Biology in Pitt's School of Dental Medicine. "By understanding that complexity, we can work toward treatments for genetic conditions, several of which have distinct facial features that involve the earlobe, including Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, which can cause cupped ears with protruding lobes." Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, November 30, 2017 (retrieved December 4, 2017)