Hearing Loss and Visual Processing

How does hearing loss affect perception and cognition for other senses?

When someone has hearing loss, they begin to rely on help from other senses to navigate the world. For example, if listening to speech is hard, visual information from a person’s face and mouth can make speech listening easier. This is especially true when a person is trying to listen in a noisy place, like a crowded restaurant or in a workplace. The long-term brain consequences of this multisensory reliance, sculpted by principles of neural plasticity, change the way that visual information is represented: remarkably, brain areas that normally process sound are now activated by visual stimulation. Although these cross-modal neuroplastic changes can affect visual processing, we do not know if hearing loss is associated with the way we attend to and remember visual information, or what the corresponding brain changes might be. 

One line of our research examines how visual information is stored in working memory or impacts the attention system, and how that relates to changes in the brain, and the degree or type of hearing impairment a person has.

Brain recordings (EEG) are made when individuals with different degrees of hearing loss are presented with visual text sentences, word by word. Those with more hearing loss have responses to the visual stimuli. One way this could happen is through neuroplasticity consequent of a continued reliance on the visual sense to help make sense of the world when hearing is poor.

Example Research:

Prince, P., Paul, B. T., & Dimitrijevic, A. (In preparation). Neural Correlates of Visual Working Memory in Cochlear Implant Users are Related to Speech Perception in Noise.

Paul, B. T., Srikanthanathan, A., & Dimitrijevic, A. (In preparation). Loss of high-frequency hearing acuity is associated with modified neural oscillations during visual verbal working memory.