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URMC / Labs / Bennetto Lab / Projects / Past Projects / Efferent Feedback and Hearing-in-Noise Perception in Autism

Efferent Feedback and Hearing-in-Noise Perception in Autism

Project Collaborators:

Dr. Paul Allen, Dr. Anne Luebke

Photo of test subject in sound booth

In our study of Efferent Feedback and Hearing-in-Noise Perception,
we measure children’s auditory and language processing using a variety
of standardized and research-based measures.

The ability to detect speech in noisy environments is critical for effective communication. Indeed, the speech we hear is frequently accompanied by background noise, such as other people talking or noises in the environment (e.g., traffic, fans, music). Typically, our brains help us to separate the relevant auditory signal (speech) from this background noise, by sending information from the brain back to the inner ear.

Parents and teachers often report that children with autism have particular difficulty attending to and understanding speech in noisy environments. This difficulty with hearing-in-noise could have significant effects on children’s learning and social interactions, as well as early language development. In this study, we are examining the links between brain and behavior to better understand hearing-in-noise ability in children with autism, compared to their peers without autism and adults. In particular, using miniature speaker-microphone earplugs, we are measuring acoustic signals generated by sensory cells in the inner ear to understand how well this system is working. Because young children and some children with autism may not have well-developed language abilities, we are measuring hearing-in-noise using both speech- and music-based tests. We hope our findings will help in developing methods to screen hearing-in-noise ability in young children with autism, so that appropriate interventions can target their language development as early as possible.

This study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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