February 12, 2008, USA:

Listening and comprehension largely inherited 

Listening to and understanding several sources at once may be difficult. A study among twins shows that the ability to do so is mainly hereditary.

Our ability to listen to and understand more than one source at once is partly dictated by our genes, according to a study carried out by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health.

Identical twins produced largely identical performances in a number of tests, whereas fraternal twins produced uneven results. The researchers concluded that genes greatly influence the ability to listen and comprehend, as identical twins share their DNA composition.

The brain also listens

The twins were tested for their ability to listen and understand several things at once, exemplified by talking on the phone while simultaneously receing a message from a bystander. The twins ability to understand single messages was tested, as well.

“Our auditory system doesn’t end with our ears. It also includes the part of our brain that helps us interpret the sounds we hear. This is the first study to show that people vary widely in their ability to process what they hear, and these differences are due largely to heredity,” said James F. Battey, director of the NIDCD.

194 same-sex pairs of twins, aged 12 through 50, participated in the study during the years 2002 through 2005. 138 pairs were identical twins and 56 pairs were fraternal twins.

In five different tests, each participant listened to a variety of sounds and words.

The study resulted in a better understanding of auditory processing disorders (APD), referring to disturbances of the process in which we hear something and the brain ‘translates’ the auditory signals into something meaningful and understandable.

Source: www.nidcd.nih.gov