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Effects of Age on Electrophysiological Measures of Cochlear Synaptopathy in Humans

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number108068
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/10/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Hearing Research
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Age-related cochlear synaptopathy (CS) has been shown to occur in rodents with minimal noise exposure, and has been hypothesized to play a crucial role in age-related hearing declines in humans. Because CS affects mainly low-spontaneous rate auditory nerve fibers, differential electrophysiological measures such as the ratio of the amplitude of wave I of the auditory brainstem response (ABR) at high to low click levels (WIH/WIL), and the difference between frequency following response (FFR) levels to shallow and deep amplitude modulated tones (FFRS-FFRD), have been proposed as CS markers. However, age-related audiometric threshold shifts, particularly prominent at high frequencies, may confound the interpretation of these measures in cross-sectional studies of age-related CS. To address this issue, we measured WIH/WIL and FFRS-FFRD using highpass masking (HP) noise to eliminate the contribution of high-frequency cochlear regions to the responses in a cross-sectional sample of 102 subjects (34 young, 34 middle-aged, 34 older). WIH/WIL in the presence of the HP noise did not decrease as a function of age. However, in the absence of HP noise, WIH/WIL showed credible age-related decreases even after partialing out the effects of audiometric threshold shifts. No credible age-related decreases of FFRS-FFRD were found. Overall, the results do not provide evidence of age-related CS in the low-frequency region where the responses were restricted by the HP noise, but are consistent with the presence of age-related CS in higher frequency regions.