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Ear Hear. 1996 Jun;17(3 Suppl):66S-77S.

Physiological plasticity in the auditory system and its possible relevance to hearing aid use, deprivation effects, and acclimatization.

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Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, USA.


Alterations in the physiological and/or the anatomical properties of the central auditory system (neural plasticity) can be induced by unilateral or bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, auditory stimulation, and conditioning in which sounds are used as conditioned stimuli. These types of neural plasticity have implications for hearing aid use, acclimatization, and deprivation effects. The occurrence of hearing-loss-induced plasticity suggests that the organization of the central auditory system may be altered by the time a hearing aid is fitted. The success of hearing aids may depend, therefore, on how the auditory system responds to the reintroduction of certain sounds by amplification. For example, enhanced auditory stimulation provided by hearing aids may induce "secondary" plasticity in the auditory system, which might contribute to acclimatization and/or deprivation effects. Such functional changes might be further modulated by reinforcing responses to reintroduced sounds using conditioning techniques. This article reviews relevant literature on auditory system plasticity--drawn largely from animal research--with the goal of providing insight into possible mechanisms of acclimatization and deprivation effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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