Characterizing individual differences: Audiometric phenotypes of age-related hearing loss

  • Judy R. Dubno Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA


Metabolic presbyacusis, or the degeneration of the cochlear lateral wall and decline of the endocochlear potential, largely accounts for age-related threshold elevations observed in laboratory animals raised in quiet and may underlie the characteristic audiogram of older humans. The “audiometric phenotype” associated with metabolic presbyacusis differs from audiograms associated with sensory losses resulting from ototoxic drug and noise exposures. Evidence supporting metabolic and sensory phenotypes in audiograms from older adults can be derived from demographic information (age, gender), environmental exposures (noise and ototoxic drug histories), and stability or changes in audiometric phenotypes as individuals age. When confirmed with biological markers and longitudinal analyses, well-defined audiometric phenotypes of human age-related hearing loss can contribute to explanations of individual differences in auditory function for older adults.


Dubno, J.R., Lee, F.S., Matthews, L.J., and Mills, J.H. (1997) “Age-related and gender-related changes in monaural speech recognition,” J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res., 40, 444-452.

Dubno, J.R., Lee, F.S., Matthews, L.J., Ahlstrom, J.B., Horwitz, A.R., and Mills, J.H. (2008). “Longitudinal changes in speech recognition in older persons,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 123, 462-475.

Dubno, J.R., Eckert, M.A., Lee, F.S., Matthews, L.J., and Schmiedt, R.A. (2013). “Classifying phenotypes of age-related hearing loss from human audiograms,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 14, 687-701.

Gratton, M.A., Schulte, B.A., and Smythe, N.M. (1997). “Quantification of stria vascularis and strial capillary areas in young and old gerbils raised in quiet,” Hear. Res., 114, 1-9.

Hellstrom, L.I. and Schmiedt, R.A. (1990). “Compound action potential input/output functions in young and quiet-aged gerbils,” Hear. Res., 50, 163-174.

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.

Lang H, Schulte, B.A., and Schmiedt, R.A. (2002). “Endocochlear potentials and compound action potential recovery: functions in the C57BL/6J mouse,” Hear. Res., 172, 118-126.

Lang, H., Schulte, B.A., and Schmiedt, R.A. (2003). “Effects of chronic furosemide treatment and age on cell division in the adult gerbil inner ear,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 4, 164-175.

Lang, H., Jyothi, V., Smythe, N.M., Dubno, J.R., Schulte, B.A., and Schmiedt, R.A. (2010). “Chronic reduction of endocochlear potential reduces auditory nerve activity: further confirmation of an animal model of metabolic presbyacusis,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 11, 419-434.

Lee, F.S., Matthews, L.J., Dubno, J.R., and Mills, J.H. (2005) “Longitudinal study of pure-tone thresholds in older persons,” Ear. Hear., 26, 1-11.

Makary, C.A., Shin, J., Kujawa, S.G., Liberman, M.C., and Merchant, S.N. (2011). “Age-related primary cochlear neuronal degeneration in human temporal bones,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 12, 711-717.

Mills, J.H., Schmiedt, R.A., and Kulish, L.F. (1990). “Age-related changes in auditory potentials of Mongolian gerbil,” Hear. Res. 46, 201–210.

Mills, D.M. and Schmiedt, R.A. (2004). “Metabolic presbycusis: Differential changes in auditory brainstem and otoacoustic emission responses with chronic furosemide application in the gerbil,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 5, 1-10.

Mills, J.H., Schmiedt, R.A., Schulte, B.A., and Dubno, J.R. (2006). “Age-related hearing loss: A loss of voltage, not hair cells,” Semin. Hear., 27, 228-236.

Otte, J., Schuknecht, H.F., and Kerr, A.G. (1978). “Ganglion cell populations in normal and pathological human cochleae. Implications for cochlear implantation,” Laryngoscope, 88, 1231-1246.

Schmiedt, R.A., Mills, J.H., and Adams, J.C. (1990). “Tuning and suppression in auditory nerve fibers of aged gerbils raised in quiet or noise,” Hear. Res., 45, 221-236.

Schmiedt, R.A. (1996). “Effects of aging on potassium homeostasis and the endocochlear potential in the gerbil cochlea,” Hear. Res., 102, 125-132.

Schmiedt, R.A., Mills, J.H., and Boettcher, F.A. (1996). “Age-related loss of activity of auditory-nerve fibers,” J. Neurophysiol., 76, 2799-2803.

Schmiedt, R.A., Lang, H., Okamura, H.O., and Schulte, B.A. (2002). “Effects of furosemide applied chronically to the round window: a model of metabolic presbyacusis,” J. Neurosci., 22, 9643-9650.

Schmiedt, R.A. (2010). “The physiology of cochlear presbyacusis,” in The aging auditory system: Perceptual characterization and neural bases of presbyacusis, Eds. S. Gordon-Salant, R.D. Frisina, A.N. Popper, and R.R. Fay (Springer, New York), pp. 9-38.

Schulte, B.A. and Schmiedt, R.A. (1992). “Lateral wall Na,K-ATPase and endocochlear potentials decline with age in quiet-reared gerbils,” Hear. Res., 61, 35-46.

Schulte, B.A, Gratton, M.A., Smythe, N., and Lee, F.S. (1996). “Morphometric analysis of spiral ganglion neurons in young and old gerbils raised in quiet,” Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 19, 160.

Suryadevara, A.C., Schulte. B.A., Schmiedt, R.A., and Slepecky, N.B. (2001). “Auditory nerve fibers in young and quiet-aged gerbil: Morphometric correlations with endocochlear potential,” Hear. Res., 161, 45-53.

Tarnowski, B.I., Schmiedt, R.A., Hellstrom, L.I., Lee, F.S., and Adams, J.C. (1991). “Age-related changes in cochleas of Mongolian gerbils,” Hear. Res., 54, 123-134.

How to Cite
Dubno, J. (2015). Characterizing individual differences: Audiometric phenotypes of age-related hearing loss. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Auditory and Audiological Research, 5, 1-10. Retrieved from
2015/1. Characterizing individual differences in hearing loss