Communicating in everyday situations requires solving the cocktail-party problem, or segregating the acoustic mixture into its constituent sounds and attending to those of most interest. Humans show dramatic variation in this ability, leading some to experience real-world problems irrespective of whether they meet criteria for clinical hearing loss. Here, we estimated the genetic contribution to cocktail-party listening by measuring speech-reception thresholds (SRTs) in 425 people from large families and ranging in age from 18 to 91 years. Roughly half the variance of SRTs was explained by genes (h 2 = 0.567). The genetic correlation between SRTs and hearing thresholds (HTs) was medium (ρ G = 0.392), suggesting that the genetic factors influencing cocktail-party listening were partially distinct from those influencing sound sensitivity. Aging and socioeconomic status also strongly influenced SRTs. These findings may represent a first step toward identifying genes for "hidden hearing loss," or hearing problems in people with normal HTs.
Mathias, S. R., Knowles, E., Mollon, J., Rodrigue, A. L., Woolsey, M. K., Hernandez, A. M., Garrett, A. S., Fox, P. T., Olvera, R. L., Peralta, J. M., Kumar, S., Göring, H., Duggirala, R., Curran, J. E., Blangero, J., & Glahn, D. C. (2022). The Genetic contribution to solving the cocktail-party problem. iScience, 25(9), 104997. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.104997
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