Speech comprehension depends on the successful operation of a network of brain regions. Processing of degraded speech is associated with different patterns of brain activity in comparison with that of high-quality speech. In this exploratory study, we studied whether processing degraded auditory input in daily life because of hearing impairment is associated with differences in brain volume. We compared T1-weighted structural magnetic resonance images of 17 hearing-impaired (HI) adults with those of 17 normal-hearing (NH) controls using a voxel-based morphometry analysis. HI adults were individually matched with NH adults based on age and educational level. Gray and white matter brain volumes were compared between the groups by region-of-interest analyses in structures associated with speech processing, and by whole-brain analyses. The results suggest increased gray matter volume in the right angular gyrus and decreased white matter volume in the left fusiform gyrus in HI listeners as compared with NH ones. In the HI group, there was a significant correlation between hearing acuity and cluster volume of the gray matter cluster in the right angular gyrus. This correlation supports the link between partial hearing loss and altered brain volume. The alterations in volume may reflect the operation of compensatory mechanisms that are related to decoding meaning from degraded auditory input.
|Journal||Trends in Hearing|
|Publication status||Published - 21 Mar 2018|