Neural and behavioral changes after the use of hearing aids

Hanin Karawani, Kimberly A. Jenkins, Samira Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Individuals with age-related hearing loss (ARHL) can restore some loss of the auditory function with the use of hearing aids (HAs). However, what remains unknown are the physiological mechanisms that underlie how the brain changes with exposure to amplified sounds though the use of HAs. We aimed to examine behavioral and physiological changes induced by HAs. Methods: Thirty-five older-adults with moderate ARHL with no history of hearing aid use were fit with HAs tested in aided and unaided conditions, and divided into experimental and control groups. The experimental group used HAs during a period of six months. The control group did not use HAs during this period, but were given the opportunity to use them after the completion of the study. Both groups underwent testing protocols six months apart. Outcome measures included behavioral (speech-in-noise measures, self-assessment questionnaires) and electrophysiological brainstem recordings (frequency-following responses) to the speech syllable /ga/ in two quiet conditions and in six-talker babble noise. Results: The experimental group reported subjective benefits on self-assessment questionnaires. Significant physiological changes were observed in the experimental group, specifically a reduction in fundamental frequency magnitude, while no change was observed in controls, yielding a significant time × group interaction. Furthermore, peak latencies remained stable in the experimental group but were significantly delayed in the control group after six months. Significant correlations between behavioral and physiological changes were also observed. Conclusions: The findings suggest that HAs may alter subcortical processing and offset neural timing delay; however, further investigation is needed to understand cortical changes and HA effects on cognitive processing. Significance: The findings of the current study provide evidence for clinicians that the use of HAs may prevent further loss of auditory function resulting from sensory deprivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1254-1267
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the participants who participated in this study. The authors would like to thank Alessandro Presacco, Calli Fodor, Lindsey Roque and other lab members for their help with data collection and analysis. The authors also thank Francis Kuk, VP Clinical Research, Widex, for feedback and assistance with the project, and Widex USA for providing hearing aids and participant funds. The authors would also like to thank the Hearing Health Foundation (awarded to S.A.) for funding support for the project, the Planning and Budgeting Committee for Higher Education in Israel for the postdoctoral fellowship awarded to H.K., and The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (R21DC015843, awarded to S.A.) for additional postdoctoral fellowship support for H.K.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology


  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Amplification
  • Frequency-following response
  • Hearing aids
  • Hearing loss
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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