Uncovering how central cognitive pathways interact with hearing loss

Year of award: 2023


  • Dr Emma Holmes

    University College London, United Kingdom

Project summary

Peripheral hearing loss affects approximately 40% of people aged 55 and older. Although hearing aids provide some relief, comprehending speech in noisy places (speech-in-noise) remains difficult and is one of the most pressing challenges for people with hearing loss. Auditory cognition has great potential to explain why people struggle to listen in noisy settings. Yet, how hearing loss interacts with auditory cognition is currently unclear. My overarching aim is to understand how hearing loss interacts with auditory cognitive effects on speech-in-noise perception. I propose a novel interdisciplinary approach, combining state-of-the-art techniques in cognitive neuroscience (ultra-high field MRI, simultaneous MEG-pupillometry, and behaviour), standardised tests from clinical audiology (audiometric thresholds), and biologically-relevant computational modelling (based on predictive coding):

- ultra-high field MRI will identify the cortical networks and hone in on laminar interactions 

- simultaneous MEG-pupillometry will test the time-courses of activity 

- clinical measures will reveal how hearing-loss severity interacts with cognitive factors 

- modelling will uncover the underlying causes of behaviour and brain responses and generate testable predictions.

Together, the programme will create a quantitative, empirically-grounded model of how hearing loss interacts with cognitive effects on speech-in-noise perception, which will produce a step-change in understanding and potentially inspire novel interventions for hearing loss.