19 June 2019

Hearing researchers at Linköping University are addressing the hearing problems of the elderly. The aim is to improve the quality of life of the millions of elderly who suffer from hearing loss.

“Pardon? What was that?” Most of us feel awkward when we don’t hear properly. And this feeling increases with age, as our hearing deteriorates and communication gets more difficult. 

In a new research project, researchers will explore a number of questions relating to hearing loss. In particular, what its causes are. Other aims are to develop more efficient hearing aids and to improve diagnostics.

Professor Anders Fridberger, from the world-leading research group Linnaeus Centre HEAD, will investigate whether drugs can be suitable for the treatment of hearing loss.

“Studies of animals have shown that drugs can protect the inner ear’s receptors from injury – and in some cases, even help them regrow. But before they can be used in humans, the drugs must have fewer side effects”, says Anders Fridberger. Anders Fridberger Photo credit Thor Balkhed

His office is at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, next to the University Hospital, which many of the patients with hearing loss attend.

But can drugs help against hearing loss? Anders Fridberger thinks so. His research team will conduct the first clinical trial of a method where a drug is injected through the eardrum. They hope the drug will protect the ear against damage caused by loud sounds, or slow the development of hearing loss.

The link between hearing loss and dementia will also be an important field of study for the researchers at HEAD in the years to come. If we can understand the relationship between hearing loss and dementia, we will be one step closer to understanding how to prevent the development of dementia.

“When your hearing deteriorates, your quality of life is affected and the risk of social isolation, depression and dementia increases. With severe hearing loss, the likelihood of developing dementia increases five-fold”, says Anders Fridberger.

Professor Mary Rudner will investigate age-related changes in cognition, and see how they relate to a decline in hearing. In a recent study, she and her colleagues present results indicating that the brain shrinks when hearing deteriorates.

“People with poorer hearing have less tissue in the parts of the brain that deal with sound and memory”, says Mary Rudner.

What is new in Mary Rudner’s research is that she identifies similar effects in people who do not have an actual hearing impairment, but whose hearing is getting worse.

“This means that hearing status has more far-reaching consequences for our well-being than we previously believed”, she says. ProfessorMary Rudners research interest is in the link between language and memory Photo credit David Brohede

Mary Rudner and Anders Fridberger have two completely different points of departure for their research. She is a cognitive scientist who explores memory, language and cognition; he is a physician who studies the inner ear’s receptors.

“This project brings together physiologists, engineers, doctors and cognitive neuroscientists, working towards a common goal. That’s a strength”, says Anders Fridberger.


Pierre Hakizimana in the lab

Research results challenge a decades-old mechanism of how we hear sounds

Researchers have made several discoveries on the functioning mechanisms of the inner hair cells of the ear, which convert sounds into nerve signals. The results challenge the current picture of the hearing organ, which has prevailed for decades.

Research award to Jerker Rönnberg

Jerker Rönnberg has been awarded the Swedish Hearing Research Prize 2020 for his 20 years of world-leading research within cognitive hearing, based at Linköping University.

Older person sitting in a chair

Hearing loss increases the risk of dementia

Research has established a link between the condition and problems with hearing. What can be done to prevent or slow the progress of dementia? This was one of the topics discussed at an international research conference in Linköping.

Latest news from LiU

Experienced and driven manager and leader – LiU’s new University Director

Anna Thörn is to be the new University Director at LiU. She is currently regional administrative director of Region Dalarna and has previously held several management positions in Östergötland, including as municipal director in Norrköping.

The choir at the walpurgis celebration

Walpurgis tradition turns 50

The Walpurgis celebration will, as is customary, include songs and speeches to spring and donning of caps with the Linköping University Male Voice Choir in Borggården outside Linköping Castle. This year, the tradition celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Man framing an illustration of a heart with his hands.

“I want to learn as much as possible about how the body works.”

Tino Ebbers receives the 2024 Onkel Adam Prize for his outstanding research at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at LiU. His research is at the intersection of medicine and technology and focuses on diseases of the heart and blood vessels.