Persistent hair cell malfunction contributes to hidden hearing loss

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Abstract

Noise exposures that result in fully reversible changes in cochlear neural threshold can cause a reduced neural output at supra-threshold sound intensity. This so-called “hidden hearing loss” has been shown to be associated with selective degeneration of high threshold afferent nerve fiber-inner hair cell (IHC) synapses. However, the electrophysiological function of the IHCs themselves in hidden hearing loss has not been directly investigated. We have made round window (RW) measurements of cochlear action potentials (CAP) and summating potentials (SP) after two levels of a 10 kHz acoustic trauma. The more intense acoustic trauma lead to notch-like permanent threshold changes and both CAP and SP showed reductions in supra-threshold amplitudes at frequencies with altered thresholds as well as from fully recovered regions. However, the interpretation of the results in normal threshold regions was complicated by the likelihood of reduced contributions from adjacent regions with elevated thresholds. The milder trauma showed full recovery of all neural thresholds, but there was a persistent depression of the amplitudes of both CAP and SP in response to supra-threshold sounds. The effect on SP amplitude in particular shows that occult damage to hair cell transduction mechanisms can contribute to hidden hearing loss. Such damage could potentially affect the supra-threshold output properties of surviving primary afferent neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-51
Number of pages7
JournalHearing Research
Volume361
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

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