Effects of lifetime noise exposure on the middle-age human auditory brainstem response, tinnitus and speech-in-noise intelligibility
Van Dun, Bram
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Recent animal studies have shown that the synapses between inner hair cells and the dendrites of the spiral ganglion cells they innervate are the elements in the cochlea most vulnerable to excessive noise exposure. Particularly in rodents, several studies have concluded that exposure to high level octave-band noise for 2 hours leads to an irreversible loss of around 50% of synaptic ribbons, leaving audiometric hearing thresholds unaltered. Cochlear synaptopathy following noise exposure is hypothesized to degrade the neural encoding of sounds at the subcortical level, which would help explain certain listening-in-noise difficulties reported by some subjects with otherwise ‘normal’ hearing. In response to this peripheral damage, increased gain of central stages of the auditory system has been observed across several species of mammals, particularly in association with tinnitus.