Meanwhile, Sandra Gordon-Salant, a professor of audiology at the University of Maryland, College Park, is more excited about the new mouse line's potential for anatomical and cognitive studies. "Now that there's this new animal model, researchers will be able to study speech processing and other cognition-related hearing deficits more easily," she says. Frisina notes that one of the reasons hearing aids are so problematic is that they don't account for the neurological aspects of hearing. A better understanding of how age-related changes in the brain stem and cortex contribute to hearing loss could lead to more effective hearing devices or even pharmaceutical treatments.
That would be welcome news to the more than one third of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who suffer from hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. And if a recent report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University is any indication, that figure will likely grow over the years, as headphones and other noise sources cause hearing loss to strike at younger ages.