Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Hearing loss substantially impacts a person's ability to communicate with others, as well as causing other impairments in quality-of-life. Over 5% of the world's population has disabling hearing loss, with affected individuals found across the age spectrum, including 32 million children and one-third of people over 65 years of age. Tinnitus refers to the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding environmental source, and while it is often associated with age-related hearing loss, it may emerge in other conditions, such as following noise trauma or certain drug therapies. At present, there exists no effective treatment, let alone cure, for problematic tinnitus.
Given the auditory brain's role in interpreting the information from our ears and generating perceptions of sound that we use to make sense of our acoustic environment, our research focusses on investigating how the brain adapts to changes in the auditory periphery and how, under certain circumstances, changes in brain activity can lead to tinnitus. We aim to identify the neural circuits and brain regions where these adaptation phenomena take place; determine the changes in brain activity patterns that encode these phenomena; and selectively modify neuronal activity in an attempt to rescue maladaptive neural changes.