Audiology in Brief A recent study by audiologist Nina Kraus and SLP Patrick Wong and colleagues at Northwestern University suggested that playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds. The study has broad implications because it applies to sound-encoding skills in music and in language. The study, which ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   May 01, 2007
Audiology in Brief
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Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   May 01, 2007
Audiology in Brief
The ASHA Leader, May 2007, Vol. 12, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.12062007.5
The ASHA Leader, May 2007, Vol. 12, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.12062007.5
Musical Training Tunes Auditory System
A recent study by audiologist Nina Kraus and SLP Patrick Wong and colleagues at Northwestern University suggested that playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds. The study has broad implications because it applies to sound-encoding skills in music and in language.
The study, which appears in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience, is the first to ask whether enhancing the sound environment will positively affect the way sound is encoded on the brainstem. Using a novel experimental design, the researchers presented the Mandarin word “mi” to 20 adults as they watched a movie. Half had a minimum of six years of musical instrument training starting before the age of 12. The other half had minimal (fewer than two years) or no musical training. All were native English speakers with no knowledge of Mandarin, a tone language in which a single word can differ in meaning depending on differences in pitch patterns.
The musically trained subjects were far better at tracking the three different tones than subjects who were non-musicians. This finding suggests a new way of defining the relationship between the brainstem—a lower-order brain structure thought to be unchangeable and uninvolved in complex processing—and the neocortex, a higher-order brain structure associated with music, language, and other complex processing.
“We’ve found that by playing music—an action thought of as a function of the neocortex—a person may actually be tuning the brainstem,” Kraus says.
“This suggests that the relationship between the brainstem and neocortex is a dynamic and reciprocal one and tells us that our sensory circuitry is more malleable than previously thought.”
Visit Nature Neuroscience for more information.
Siren Noise May Cause Hearing Loss in Firefighters
A North Arlington firefighter is among 2,500 in New Jersey—and nearly 5,000 nationwide—who are suing Federal Signal Corp., a national siren manufacturer, alleging that exposure to noise from the device caused noise-induced hearing loss.
Carmelo DeJesus’ lawsuit, filed in Hackensack, N.J., is one of four that became public in January out of Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex counties, joining several others that have been filed in Illinois the past five years, as reported in the North Jersey Media Group. All plaintiffs are seeking damages from the Illinois-based siren manufacturer and four New Jersey companies that distribute municipal fire equipment.
DeJesus, 48, a 25-year veteran of the Hoboken, N.J., Fire Department, alleges that the siren caused high-frequency noise-induced hearing loss. The manufacturer never warned him of the dangers and made no effort to rectify the defect, says DeJesus.
Alan Friedman, who represents DeJesus, said the sirens installed in many firetrucks are dangerous to hearing because they release high-intensity sound within a narrow frequency range. They are particularly harmful to the truck passengers because they are omni-directional and release sound backwards, directed at the firefighters in the truck.
No verdict or settlement has been reached so far in any of several lawsuits that have been filed against the company in Chicago since 2002, Friedman said.
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May 2007
Volume 12, Issue 6