19 February 2009

Turning the brain scanner on the ear

An imaging technique mainly used for scanning brains can help doctors to more precisely diagnose sensorineural hearing loss, a discovery made by scientists in Texas.

Inner ear abnormalities, abnormalities of the cochlea, missing or deficient cochlear nerves - By turning magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners used for brain scans on the inner ear, a team of Texan researchers has identified a variety of inner ear abnormalities in patients with sensorineural hearing loss.

The abnormalities, causing sensorineural hearing loss, can now be precisely detected and captured on detailed MRI images of the inner ear.

Images of tissue

The Texan researchers compared magnetic resonance imaging with the x-rays and CT scanning normally used to examine sensorineural hearing loss.

They found that unlike the 'conventional' scanning techniques, the MRI generated excellent images of human tissue. Abnormalities in the inner ear tissue are among the causes of sensorineural hearing loss that would be missed by the older imaging techniques.

Magnetic resonance imaging technology employs powerful magnetic fields in creating images of human tissue. Hydrogen concentrations in the tissue are measured, and as the hydrogen concentrations vary depending on the type of tissue, the MRI can provide detailed images of the body tissue.

Source: Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, September 2008.
Published on hear-it on February 19, 2009.

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