July 30, 2020
Dr. Björn Herrmann, a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist specializing in hearing and aging, has joined Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute as the new Tier II Canada Research Chair in Auditory Aging.
Thanks to support from the Canada Research Chair program, Dr. Herrmann is one of four chairholders at Baycrest. He joined Baycrest from Western University, where his research explored how listening and communication change with age.
Our ears and brains work together to isolate relevant sounds, such as a friend’s voice in a busy restaurant, from other sounds, such as background music and other people’s conversations. Many older adults develop hearing loss as they age, which negatively impacts this crucial ability to isolate sound from background noise in day-to-day communication. Hearing loss not only puts them at risk for social isolation, but also increases their chances of developing dementia.
At Baycrest, Dr. Herrmann plans to explore the brain mechanisms that signal hearing difficulties within noisy environments and how these are linked to cognitive decline.
“The first signs of hearing difficulties, such as requiring greater effort to comprehend speech in crowded places, often become apparent more than a decade before hearing loss is diagnosed,” says Dr. Herrmann. “If we better understand the mechanisms underlying hearing loss and identify hearing challenges earlier, we can treat people earlier and better.”
Dr. Herrmann will also explore how hearing loss impacts a person’s level of engagement.
“People who experience hearing problems may zone out temporarily when they find speech comprehension challenging, or they may avoid noisy environments altogether,” adds Dr. Herrmann. “Through my research, I hope to help people with hearing problems to stay engaged in social activities and networks.”
“Dr. Herrmann’s research has the potential to help us recognize and address signs of cognitive decline earlier. Through this work, Dr. Herrmann and his team at the RRI could significantly contribute to scientific advancements and innovations that will help Canada’s older adult population, and seniors worldwide, extend their auditory health and minimize rates of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” says Baycrest President and CEO Dr. William Reichman.
Launched in 2000, the Government of Canada created the Canada Research Chair program to make Canada one of the world's top countries in research and development. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.
“We’re thrilled that the Canada Research Chair program provided us the opportunity to recruit such an outstanding researcher to Baycrest. Dr. Herrmann truly is a rising star,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, Vice-President, Research and the Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at Baycrest. “His work is a great example of how foundational discoveries in neuroscience drive transformational research in the fight against age-related hearing loss, providing real tools to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”
Baycrest is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as our organization works to create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Founded in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: www.baycrest.org
About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.
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Michelle Petch Gotuzzo
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