Good news! There are two new biomarkers of brain function that may be able to explain why some people have trouble hearing in the presence of background noise but are able to pass a hearing test. If you’re asking what exactly that means or what a biomarker is, we’ll explain below.
What’s a Biomarker?
The term “biomarker” is short for “biological marker,” which is an objective measure that tells what’s going on in a cell or organism at any given moment. Biomarkers can be identified from simple measurements during a routine physical, like your weight or blood pressure, or may come from labs that your doctor orders, like a blood test or urine test.
Biomarkers can serve as early warning signals for potential health problems. For example, high cholesterol levels are a common biomarker that you’re at risk for heart disease, and high levels of lead in the bloodstream indicate possible problems related to the nervous system or cognition.
Scientists and researchers can use biomarkers to have a better understanding of biological processes and the relationships between human biology, environmental exposures and diseases. For example, a biomarker can indicate overexposure to vehicle exhaust for people with respiratory disorders living near Interstate 210.
About the Study
Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary analyzed data from more than 100,000 patient records. They found that one in ten patients in the university’s audiology clinic came in with complaints about poor hearing but had normal audiograms when tested.
For the study, researchers performed two tests on 23 young and middle-age adults with normal audiograms. The first test measured electrical signals from the surface of the ear in order to capture how the earliest stages of sound processing within the brain encode fluctuations in soundwaves, and the second used special glasses to measure changes in pupil diameter while participants focused on a speaker as others talked in the background.
Together, these tests revealed which adults could and could not follow speech in an environment with multiple speakers. This study paves the way for future clinical tests of hidden hearing disorders, a field that is currently not well understood.
“If our ability to converse in social settings is part of our hearing health, then the tests that are used have to go beyond the very first stages of hearing and more directly measure auditory processing in the brain,” said senior study author Daniel B. Polley.
For more information about hidden hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call the Hearing Center of Lake Charles today.
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