Issue 7
Monday, 09 May 2016
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Sami Azam has discovered a marker that could improve diagnosis of auditory processing disorders
Sami Azam has discovered a marker that could improve diagnosis of auditory processing disorders

Sound research improves hearing

By Leanne Miles

The way people hear tones has led a Charles Darwin University PhD candidate to discover a marker that could improve diagnosis of auditory processing disorders.

Originally from Bangladesh Dr Sami Azam wanted to improve the understanding of the connection between the ears and brain to assist with the detection of hearing disorders due to a common ear infection found in children all over the world. 

“Previous research has shown that otitis media or middle ear infection is a common disease in childhood that can adversely affect the ability to hear normally,” Dr Azam said. “It indicates that high rates of otitis media have been found in Aboriginal children, which if left untreated may lead to long lasting conductive hearing loss and in turn speech and cognitive function.”

With a background in electrical engineering and computer programming, branching into a PhD in biomedical engineering was a natural fit for Dr Azam. His PhD, entitled “Detection of binaural processing in the human brain”, investigated a different way to test hearing. 

“Binaural hearing is the ability to combine the information from both ears in order to detect the location of a sound source or to distinguish a sound from background noise,” he said. “It may be impaired in people who have suffered from prolonged hearing loss as children, for example due to otitis media.”

Dr Azam analysed responses of normal hearing subjects to repeated auditory stimuli to find out how the brain responded. 

“We found a particular frequency range of the brain’s response may be used as a marker for binaural processing in the human brain,” Dr Azam said. “This means that we now have a marker to lead us towards an effective way to quantify a person's binaural hearing.”

Through his research, he said he hoped to provide an objective approach to testing, alongside currently available hearing tests for young children.

Dr Azam is a Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at CDU and is continuing his research into binaural hearing and brain response. He will graduate with his PhD on Friday 20 May.