Catherine Landry, Rim Nazar, Marie Simon, François Genest, Fanny Lécuyer Giguère, Franco Lepore, Johannes Frasnelli

Behavioural evidence for enhanced olfactory and trigeminal perception in congenital hearing loss

  • General Neuroscience

AbstractSensory deprivation, especially hearing loss (HL), offers a valuable model for studying neuroplasticity in the human brain and adaptive behaviours that support the daily lives of those with limited or absent sensory input. The study of olfactory function is particularly important as it is an understudied aspect of sensory deprivation. This study aimed to compare the effects of congenital HL on olfactory capacity by using psychophysical tasks. Methodological concerns from previous studies regarding the onset of HL and cognitive assessments were addressed. We recruited 11 individuals with severe‐to‐profound sensorineural HL (SNHL) since birth and 11 age‐ and sex‐matched typical hearing non‐signers. We used standardized neuropsychological tests to assess typical cognition among participants with SNHL. We evaluated olfactory functions by assessing olfactory detection threshold, odour discrimination and odour identification. Hearing‐impaired participants outperformed their typical hearing counterparts in olfactory tasks. We further evaluated the accuracy and response time in identifying and localizing odours to disentangle olfactory sensitivity from trigeminal system sensitivity. Participants with SNHL demonstrated higher sensitivity to both the identification and localization tasks. These findings suggest that congenital SNHL is associated with enhanced higher‐level olfactory processing and increased trigeminal sensitivity.

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