4 years ago

Noise-induced and age-related hearing loss:  new perspectives and potential therapies [version 1; referees: 4 approved]

M Charles Liberman
The classic view of sensorineural hearing loss has been that the primary damage targets are hair cells and that auditory nerve loss is typically secondary to hair cell degeneration. Recent work has challenged that view. In noise-induced hearing loss, exposures causing only reversible threshold shifts (and no hair cell loss) nevertheless cause permanent loss of >50% of the synaptic connections between hair cells and the auditory nerve. Similarly, in age-related hearing loss, degeneration of cochlear synapses precedes both hair cell loss and threshold elevation. This primary neural degeneration has remained a “hidden hearing loss” for two reasons: 1) the neuronal cell bodies survive for years despite loss of synaptic connection with hair cells, and 2) the degeneration is selective for auditory nerve fibers with high thresholds. Although not required for threshold detection when quiet, these high-threshold fibers are critical for hearing in noisy environments. Research suggests that primary neural degeneration is an important contributor to the perceptual handicap in sensorineural hearing loss, and it may be key to the generation of tinnitus and other associated perceptual anomalies. In cases where the hair cells survive, neurotrophin therapies can elicit neurite outgrowth from surviving auditory neurons and re-establishment of their peripheral synapses; thus, treatments may be on the horizon.

Publisher URL: https://f1000research.com/articles/6-927/v1

DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.11310.1

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