Might early hearing impairment lead to cognitive challenges later in life? Yune Lee from the Ohio State University talks with us in episode 30 about his research into how even minor hearing loss can increase the cognitive load required to distinguish spoken language. His open-access article  “Differences in hearing acuity among ‘normal-hearing’ young adults modulate the neural basis for speech comprehension” was published with multiple co-authors in the May 2018 issue in eNeuro.

Hearing Loss and Cognition - Yune Lee
Hearing Loss and Cognition - Yune Lee
Hearing Loss and Cognition - Yune LeeHearing Loss and Cognition - Yune Lee
@rwatkins says:
Ryan and I are also interested in another device common to neuroscience research electroencephalography or EEG machines. We asked Yune what the similarities and differences are between the instruments as well as whether there are recent developments in brain imaging that we should be aware of.
@rwatkins says:
fMRI scanners work by measuring the oxygenated hemoglobin which contains iron in the blood, and where blood flows in the brain can indicate what's being activated in it. So, Doug and I asked how these kinds of brain scanners can be used for purposes other than brain imaging.
@rwatkins says:
If a hearing aid or cochlear implant can help restore some people's lost hearing, might such devices also potentially improve the cognitive processing among those whose hearing has been damaged. Here's what Yune had to say in response to our question.
@rwatkins says:
Doug and I wondered if people's comprehension of books or any other written text operates in the same way as when information is presented in an auditory fashion as was done in Yune’s study.
@rwatkins says:
fMRI machines are notoriously loud. So, Ryan and I asked Yune how neuroscientists are able to test people's hearing acuity while participants are inside of a scanner.
@rwatkins says:
Like most researchers Yune and his team reported their findings in text and tables as well as through images which are typically called figures in academic publishing, included among these figures were brain scans made while people listen to spoken sentences. Doug and I asked Yune how these interactive images are read, which as you listen, you can manipulate at parsing.science/tmap. That's TMap.
@rwatkins says:
When we left off, we asked Yune to explain the unexpected results that he and his team found as well as their implications.
@rwatkins says:
As it turned out, these findings weren't the ones that most surprised Yune and his team, nor were they those that ended up garnering the attention of the popular media, as he explains after this short break.
@rwatkins says:
The main goal of the study was to examine the extent to which hearing acuity relates to people's neural engagement during the comprehension of spoken sentences. We asked Yune to explain what he and his team found regarding this as well as what other analyses they conducted that were related to those findings.
@rwatkins says:
Next, Ryan and I wanted to know more about how the participants were presented with the auditory stimuli while they were inside of a functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI machine, and also how this resulted in limiting the number of participants that could be included in the study.
@rwatkins says:
When people's hearing is impaired, their brain sometimes compensates by shifting the language processing functions that are typically of the left hemisphere over to the right hemisphere. However, this can result in an increased cognitive demand on the right hemisphere, which has been associated with an increased risk of dementia. Because of this link between hearing loss and dementia, Doug and I were interested in learning about the extent to which people experience hearing loss.
@rwatkins says:
Yune and a team of five other researchers from across the US tested the hearing acuity of young adults 18 to 41 years of age. A group he refers to as youngsters, so few people in this group experienced hearing loss. This led Ryan and I to ask him just how is hearing and its loss measured.
@rwatkins says:
Doug and I were also curious to learn what it is that's knowing about the degree to which hearing loss is linked to dementia.
@rwatkins says:
Yune is also a musician and previously was a commercial music director. However, after stumbling on to research regarding music processing in the brain, he decided to return to school completing his PhD in cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth College. Ryan and I wondered what led to his interest in studying differences between younger and older adults’ hearing ability.
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Hosts / Producers

Ryan Watkins & Doug Leigh

How to Cite

Watkins, R., Leigh, D., & Lee, Y. S.. (2018, August 21). Parsing Science – Hearing Loss and Cognition. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6994613


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Yune Lee: We were convinced that the right frontal area comes into play, even in with a very slight hearing decline.

Doug Leigh: This is Parsing Science: the unpublished story is behind the world’s most compelling science as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Doug Leigh.

Ryan Watkins: And I’m Ryan Watkins. While death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, it’s often the case that the older we get, the poorer our hearing becomes. Today, we’re joined by Yune Lee from the Ohio State University. He’ll talk with us about his research which suggests that hearing loss among younger people can tax their cognitive resources in ways that are typically not encountered until our 50s. Here’s Yune Lee.

Lee: Hi, my name is Yune Lee. I’m an assistant professor of chronic brain injury, and speech and hearing science department at the Ohio State University. So, I’ve been here for almost two years, and my main expertise domain is in the auditory neuroscience with speech, language and music. So, we study how speech and music are connected in the brain, by using fMRI or some other portable neuro imaging device called a functional near-infrared spectroscopy or fNIRS.

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