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Hearing and touch represent two distinct sensory systems that both rely on the transformation of mechanical force into electrical signals. Here we used a battery of quantitative sensory tests to probe touch, thermal and pain sensitivity in a young control population (14-20 years old) compared to age-matched individuals with congenital hearing loss. Sensory testing was performed on the dominant hand of 111 individuals with normal hearing and 36 with congenital hearing loss. Subjects with congenital deafness were characterized by significantly higher vibration detection thresholds at 10 Hz (2-fold increase, P < 0.001) and 125 Hz (P < 0.05) compared to controls. These sensory changes were not accompanied by any major change in measures of pain perception. We also observed a highly significant reduction (30% compared to controls p < 0.001) in the ability of hearing impaired individual's ability to detect cooling which was not accompanied by changes in warm detection. At least 60% of children with non-syndromic hearing loss showed very significant loss of vibration detection ability (at 10 Hz) compared to age-matched controls. We thus propose that many pathogenic mutations that cause childhood onset deafness may also play a role in the development or functional maintenance of somatic mechanoreceptors.

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Journal article


Sci Rep

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Adolescent, Adult, Child, Ear, Inner, Female, Heart Defects, Congenital, Humans, Male, Mechanoreceptors, Pain Threshold, Somatosensory Cortex, Touch, Vibration, Young Adult