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December 19, 2002

Researchers see how brain hears sound

From: CBC Calgary, Canada - 19 Dec 2002

Calgary - Researchers at the University of Calgary have gained a peek at how the brain responds to sound.

The team combines a standard hearing test with functional magnetic resonance imaging to see how the brain processes sound.
The researchers say seeing how the brain sends and receives auditory messages in a hearing person may help them to treat those who are hearing impaired.

"This has huge potential for dealing with rehabilitation because we'll be able to see what's happening in the brain," says David Brown, with the U of C's faculty of medicine.

Neuroscientist Jos Eggermont heads the research team. He says the technology won't lead to repairing hearing loss, but could result in targeted hearing aids that re-route sound signals in the brain, overriding burnt-out sensors.

For Kathie Ozar, one of only two people in Calgary with a bone anchor hearing aid, earlier auditory research has already paid off.

Ozar is deaf in one ear, but a device allows sound to be transferred from her right ear to her left, which helps her hear people in loud places.

"It's just more for convenience" Ozar says. "My daughter is a competitive swimmer and my son plays hockey, so we're in louder places."

The researchers will begin testing the technology on hearing impaired subjects in the new year.

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