Mild to moderate hearing loss in early childhood can cause permanent changes to how sounds are processed in the brain — similar to the effects of deafness since birth — according to a study. The findings of the study, published in the journal eLife, may have implications for how mild to moderate hearing loss in infants can be managed by healthcare providers.
The researchers, including those from the University of Cambridge in the UK, used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the brain responses of 46 children diagnosed with permanent mild-to-moderate hearing loss while they were listening to sounds.
They found that the younger children with such hearing loss showed almost normal brain responses — similar to those of children with typical hearing. However, the study noted that the brain responses of older children with hearing loss were smaller than those of their normally hearing peers.
To make sure that the gradual worsening in hearing was not due to deterioration in auditory health of the participants, the researchers re-tested a subset of the group of younger children from the original study, six years later.