A hearing test may now be able to tell if an athlete suffered from a concussion after a rough football game. Researchers have found a particular signal in neural activity, recorded with electrodes placed on the head as children listen to 'da' sounds from a speech synthesizer, can objectively demarcate concussed children from a healthy control group.
The Small Study Was Conducted On Just 40 People, But Results Were Pretty Accurate
The study, which was published in Scientific Reports, shows that a simple and reliable test can measure a concussion. Nina Kraus, neurologist from the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, along with other researchers, conducted the study on 40 people.
According to Washington Post, the researchers were able to identify children who had suffered a recent concussion with 90 percent accuracy and those who hadn't with 95 percent accuracy. The participants were recruited from the Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Children With Concussions Are Difficult To Diagnose
The researchers were particularly interested in looking for ways to track children's concussion and measure its long-term effects to the brain. However, children are difficult to diagnose because they often report their symptoms less clearly compared to adults.
For this study, Klaus and her team attached three sensors to the scalp which measured "frequency following response," electrical signals in the brain by listening to speech. Children who have concussions registered smaller and slower responses.
The researchers concluded that the hearing impairment seemed to be most pronounced in the children with the most serious symptoms. More work is needed to be done on larger groups to validate this study. Klaus hopes to commercialize her research, and is working with colleagues to reduce the cost and size of the hardware required, to create a concussion-detection kit for use in labs or at sports grounds.