For additional information, please visit:
In children, both congenital (genetic) and progressive forms of hearing loss occur early in life. Often these can emerge as unilateral or bilateral forms of mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss at a time when the child is rapidly gaining information about the environment. If not treated properly (e.g., hearing aids/cochlear implants/sign language) this deprivation can lead to impairments in language acquisition and higher-order cognition. Our models use both reversible (earplugging) and permanent (malleus removal) forms of conductive and sensorineural (noise exposure) hearing loss to investigate how the auditory system responds to acute and permanent sensory deprivations during development. We then test these animals on various cognitive and perceptual behavioral paradigms as adults to study hearing loss induced learning impairments. These are coupled with neurophysiological measurements designed to discover how early hearing loss affects learning related plasticity and neuronal network function in juveniles and adults. We will use these insights to develop treatment strategies to improve learning and lessen the severity of cognitive impairments.