School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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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.


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Office of Human Genetics



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