11 September 2023

Changes in eye movements 'predict' future hearing loss

Researchers have developed a method for early diagnosis of hearing loss based on eye movements.

Neuroscientists from the Rotman Research Institute in Canada have studied the relationship between early signs of hearing loss and eye movements. The analysis showed that when people have to listen (make more effort to hear speech), eye movements slow down.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments involving 26 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. The participants sat in the lab with their chin resting on a special head stabilization stand. The researchers played spoken language in headphones and tracked where on the screen the participants were looking at that moment.

The scientists used audio recordings with different levels of background noise and interference to study how eye movements changed under different circumstances. They also showed different pictures (static and moving) on the screen to determine whether the movements were related to hearing or were random.

"We found that under more stressful listening conditions, when the degree of masking of speech by background noise was high, people's eye movements decreased, reflected in longer fixations and reduced gaze dispersion compared to more favorable listening conditions," Bien Herrmann, co-author of the study.

After a certain age, approximately 40% of people experience some degree of hearing loss. Current diagnostic methods may not be able to detect early signs of hearing loss, such as loss of the ability to hear speech in crowded or noisy environments. The researchers believe that the use of eye movement analysis can help diagnose the disorder at an early stage and help patients.
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