Hidden Hearing Loss – Christmas Special
Contact Name: Chris Plack
Chris Plack studied at the University of Cambridge, where he was awarded a BA in Natural Sciences in 1987, and a PhD in 1990. He held post-doctoral positions at the University of Minnesota and at the University of Sussex, before being awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 1994, which he held at Sussex and then at the University of Essex. He was Senior Lecturer and then Chair in the Psychology Department at the University of Essex, before moving to Lancaster University in 2005. He moved again to the University of Manchester in 2008, and he currently holds two part-time positions, as Ellis Llwyd Jones Professor of Audiology at the University of Manchester, and as Professor of Auditory Neuroscience at Lancaster University. Chris has over 90 publications in academic journals, and has written an introductory textbook on hearing and edited two other volumes. In 2003 he was elected Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.
Hearing ability is usually assessed using pure tone audiometry, although it has been known for many years that some individuals with normal audiometric thresholds have hearing difficulties. Recent results from rodent studies suggest that noise exposure and/or ageing can cause loss of the connections, or synapses, between inner hair cells in the cochlea and auditory nerve fibres. This disorder has been termed cochlear synpatopathy and popularly “hidden hearing loss,” because it is not thought to be detectable using pure-tone audiometry. Despite being “hidden,” this disorder may impact on hearing ability in the real world, including functions such as speech perception in noise, and may be a cause of tinnitus. Much research effort is being applied to determine the scale of the problem for human listeners, and to develop a diagnostic test for cochlear synaptopathy