Hearing Study May Change the Standard Audiogram

Published November 2019 | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The inability to understand speech in a noisy setting is one of the first signs of age-related hearing loss. A study of 116 adults with “normal hearing” has discovered a possible reason for their self-reported difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.

Around 60% of the listeners were less than 30 years old, yet more than half of these 20-somethings had at least some impaired extended high frequency (EHF) hearing and 34% reported difficulty following a conversation in background noise.

David Moore, PhD, director of the Communication Sciences Research Center, points out that EHF hearing, beyond the range routinely tested in hearing clinics, contributes to speech recognition.

“The most important clinical implication of this study is by using EHF audiometry, we may be able to detect in childhood who is going to have the most common form of hearing loss later in life and take steps to prevent that from happening,” says Moore.

Lead author Lina Motlagh Zadeh, PhD, earned her doctorate degree based on this study. Since then, follow-up papers have called for EHF measurement to be incorporated into the standard hearing test.

Another team member, Lisa Hunter, PhD, FAAA, scientific director of research in the Division of Audiology, has received an NIH R01 grant that includes study of EHF as a possible biomarker for antibiotic-induced hearing loss in children with cystic fibrosis. That research will be conducted with colleagues in the Divisions of Pulmonary Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.

Moore’s team is developing a smartphone app that can serve as an EHF-sensitive home hearing test. The technology also can support automated and remote fitting of hearing aids particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Energy Profile of the Spoken Word “Six”

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David Moore.

David Moore, PhD

Lina Motlagh Zadeh.

Lina Motlagh Zadeh, PhD


Motlagh Zadeh L, Silbert NH, Sternasty K, Swanepoel W, Hunter LL, Moore DR. Extended high-frequency hearing enhances speech perception in noise. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Nov 19;116(47):23753-23759.