Signs of noise-induced neural degeneration in humans
Animal studies demonstrated that noise exposure causes a primary and selective loss of auditory-nerve fibres with low spontaneous firing rate. This neuronal impairment, if also present in humans, can be assumed to affect the processing of supra-threshold stimuli, especially in the presence of background noise, while leaving the processing of low-level stimuli unaffected. The purpose of this study was to investigate if signs of such primary neural damage from noise-exposure could also be found in noise-exposed human individuals. It was investigated: (1) if noise-exposed listeners with hearing thresholds within the “normal” range perform poorer, in terms of their speech recognition threshold in noise (SRTN), and (2) if auditory brainstem responses (ABR) reveal lower amplitude of wave I in the noise-exposed listeners. A test group of noise/music-exposed individuals and a control group were recruited. All subjects were between 18-32 years of age and had pure-tone thresholds ≤ 15 dB HL from 250-8000 Hz. Despite normal pure-tone thresholds, the noise-exposed listeners required a significantly better signal-to-noise ratio to obtain SRTN, compared to the control group. The ABR results showed significantly lower amplitude of wave I, in the left-ear, of the test group listeners. Significantly higher wave III and normal wave V were also found in the left ear of the test group listeners suggesting a compensated neural gain in the brainstem. Overall, the results from this study seem to suggest that noise exposure affects supra-threshold processing in humans before pure-tone sensitivity, raising suspicion to the hypothesis of primary neural involvement.
Axelsson, A. and Ringdahl, A. (1989). “Tinnitus – A study of its prevalence and characteristics,” Br. J. Audiol., 23, 53-62.
Bidelman, G.M. and Bhagat, S.P. (2015). “Right-ear advantage drives the link between olivocochlear efferent ‘antimasking’ and speech-in-noise listening benefits,” NeuroReport, 26, 483-487
Costalupes, J.A., Young, E.D., and Gibson, D.J. (1984). “Effects of continuous noise backgrounds on rate response auditory nerve fibers in cat,” J. Neurophysiol., 51, 1326-1344.
Furman, A.C., Kujawa, S.G., and Liberman M.C. (2013). “Noise induced cochlear neuropathy is selective for fibers with low spontaneous rates,” J. Neurophysiol., 110, 577-586.
Hickox, A.E. and Liberman, M.C. (2014). “Is noise-induced cochlear neuropathy key to the generation of hyperacusis or tinnitus?” J. Neurophysiol., 111, 552-564.
Knipper, M., Dijk, P.V., Nunes, I., Rüttiger, L., and Zimmermann, U. (2013). “Advances in the neurobiology of hearing disorder: Recent developments regarding the basis of tinnitus and hyperacusis,” Prog. Neurobiol., 111, 17-33.
Kujawa, S.G. and Liberman, M.C. (2009). “Adding insult to injury: Cochlear nerve degeneration after “temporary” noise-induced hearing loss,” J. Neurosci., 29, 14077-14085.
Lawner, B.E., Harding, G.W., and Bohne, B.A. (1997). “Time course of nerve-fiber regeneration in the noise damaged mammalian cochlea,” Int. J. Dev. Neurosci., 15, 601-617.
Liberman, M.C. (1978). “Auditory-nerve response from cats raised in a low-noise chamber,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 63, 442-455.
Lin, H.W., Furman, A.C., Kujawa, S.G., and Liberman, M.C. (2011). “Primary neural degeneration in the guinea pig cochlea after reversible noise-induced threshold shift,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 12, 605-616.
Maison, S.F., Usubuchi, H., and Liberman, M.C. (2013). “Efferent feedback minimizes cochlear neuropathy from moderate noise exposure,” J. Neurosci., 33, 5542-5552.
Micheyl, C., Khalfa, S., Perrot, X., and Collet, L., (1997). “Difference in cochlear efferent activity between musicians and non-musicians,” NeuroReport, 8, 1047-1050.
Palmer, K.T., Griffin, M.J., Syddall, H.E., Davis, A., Pannett, B., and Coggon, D. (2002). “Occupational exposure to noise and the attributable burden of hearing difficulties in Great Britain,” Occup. Environ. Med., 59, 634-639.
Pirilä, T. (1991). “Left-right asymmetry in the human response to experimental noise exposure: II. Pre-exposure hearing threshold and temporary threshold shift at 4 kHz frequency;” Acta Otolaryngol., 111, 861-866.
Schaette, R. and McAlpine, D. (2011). “Tinnitus with a normal audiogram: Physiological evidence for hidden hearing loss and computational model,” Eur. J. Neurosci., 23, 3124-3138.
Spoendlin, H. (1971). “Primary structural changes in the organ of corti after acoustic overstimulation,” Acta Otolaryngol., 71, 166-176.
Taberner, A.M. and Liberman, M.C. (2005). “Response properties of single auditory nerve fibers in the mouse,” J. Neurophysiol., 93, 557-569.
Zhao, F. and Stephens, D. (1996). “Hearing complaints of patients with King-Kopetzky Syndrome (obscure auditory dysfunction),” Br. J. Audiol., 30, 397-402.
Wagener, K., Josvassen, J.L., and Ardenkjaer, R. (2003). ”Design, optimization and evaluation of a Danish sentence test in noise,” Int. J. Audiol., 42, 10-17.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
a. Authors retain copyright* and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
b. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
c. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
*From the 2017 issue onward. The Danavox Jubilee Foundation owns the copyright of all articles published in the 1969-2015 issues. However, authors are still allowed to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.