Mauricio Cerda Villablanca, PhD; Paul Delano, PhD; Victor Castañeda, PhD; Manuel Duran; Alexis Leiva
Competition Sponsor: National Agency for Research and Development of Chile
The population’s average age is becoming older in most developed and developing countries worldwide. The current global challenge is how to keep this aging population in good physical and mental health? While WHO guidelines recommend care goals should start with an early diagnosis, there are no dementia biomarkers. Interestingly, hearing loss is a critical risk factor for cognitive decay, such as dementia. In particular, moderate and severe hearing impairment is associated with an increased risk for developing dementia in the next life years. Hearing loss can be subjectively measured by an audiologist in an acoustically isolated chamber using audiometry. This method is expensive and not available in rural settings. Alternatively, an objective operator-independent measure of hearing loss can be estimated using otoacoustic emissions, which are sounds emitted by normal ears in response to tone series. Recent studies have shown that the loss of distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE, a type of otoacoustic emission) in elders is associated with cognitive decline and atrophy of several brain regions. However, the measurement of DPOAE requires equipment only available at major hospitals and research labs. Our working hypothesis is that we can design and build a unique headphone, at low cost, with special denoising and detection algorithms in a smartphone to provide a simplified risk assessment of mental deterioration based upon DPOAE.