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      Inner Hair Cell Loss Disrupts Hearing and Cochlear Function Leading to Sensory Deprivation and Enhanced Central Auditory Gain

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          There are three times as many outer hair cells (OHC) as inner hair cells (IHC), yet IHC transmit virtually all acoustic information to the brain as they synapse with 90–95% of type I auditory nerve fibers. Here we review a comprehensive series of experiments aimed at determining how loss of the IHC/type I system affects hearing by selectively destroying these cells in chinchillas using the ototoxic anti-cancer agent carboplatin. Eliminating IHC/type I neurons has no effect on distortion product otoacoustic emission or the cochlear microphonic potential generated by OHC; however, it greatly reduces the summating potential produced by IHC and the compound action potential (CAP) generated by type I neurons. Remarkably, responses from remaining auditory nerve fibers maintain sharp tuning and low thresholds despite innervating regions of the cochlea with ~80% IHC loss. Moreover, chinchillas with large IHC lesions have surprisingly normal thresholds in quiet until IHC losses exceeded 80%, suggesting that only a few IHC are needed to detect sounds in quiet. However, behavioral thresholds in broadband noise are elevated significantly and tone-in-narrow band noise masking patterns exhibit greater remote masking. These results suggest the auditory system is able to compensate for considerable loss of IHC/type I neurons in quiet but not in difficult listening conditions. How does the auditory brain deal with the drastic loss of cochlear input? Recordings from the inferior colliculus found a relatively small decline in sound-evoked activity despite a large decrease in CAP amplitude after IHC lesion. Paradoxically, sound-evoked responses are generally larger than normal in the auditory cortex, indicative of increased central gain. This gain enhancement in the auditory cortex is associated with decreased GABA-mediated inhibition. These results suggest that when the neural output of the cochlea is reduced, the central auditory system compensates by turning up its gain so that weak signals once again become comfortably loud. While this gain enhancement is able to restore normal hearing under quiet conditions, it may not adequately compensate for peripheral dysfunction in more complex sound environments. In addition, excessive gain increases may convert recruitment into the debilitating condition known as hyperacusis.

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          Most cited references 73

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          Tinnitus with a normal audiogram: physiological evidence for hidden hearing loss and computational model.

           Roland Schaette (corresponding) ,  David McAlpine (2011)
          Ever since Pliny the Elder coined the term tinnitus, the perception of sound in the absence of an external sound source has remained enigmatic. Traditional theories assume that tinnitus is triggered by cochlear damage, but many tinnitus patients present with a normal audiogram, i.e., with no direct signs of cochlear damage. Here, we report that in human subjects with tinnitus and a normal audiogram, auditory brainstem responses show a significantly reduced amplitude of the wave I potential (generated by primary auditory nerve fibers) but normal amplitudes of the more centrally generated wave V. This provides direct physiological evidence of "hidden hearing loss" that manifests as reduced neural output from the cochlea, and consequent renormalization of neuronal response magnitude within the brainstem. Employing an established computational model, we demonstrate how tinnitus could arise from a homeostatic response of neurons in the central auditory system to reduced auditory nerve input in the absence of elevated hearing thresholds.
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            Prestin is required for electromotility of the outer hair cell and for the cochlear amplifier.

            Hearing sensitivity in mammals is enhanced by more than 40 dB (that is, 100-fold) by mechanical amplification thought to be generated by one class of cochlear sensory cells, the outer hair cells. In addition to the mechano-electrical transduction required for auditory sensation, mammalian outer hair cells also perform electromechanical transduction, whereby transmembrane voltage drives cellular length changes at audio frequencies in vitro. This electromotility is thought to arise through voltage-gated conformational changes in a membrane protein, and prestin has been proposed as this molecular motor. Here we show that targeted deletion of prestin in mice results in loss of outer hair cell electromotility in vitro and a 40-60 dB loss of cochlear sensitivity in vivo, without disruption of mechano-electrical transduction in outer hair cells. In heterozygotes, electromotility is halved and there is a twofold (about 6 dB) increase in cochlear thresholds. These results suggest that prestin is indeed the motor protein, that there is a simple and direct coupling between electromotility and cochlear amplification, and that there is no need to invoke additional active processes to explain cochlear sensitivity in the mammalian ear.
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              Noise-induced cochlear neuropathy is selective for fibers with low spontaneous rates.

              Acoustic overexposure can cause a permanent loss of auditory nerve fibers without destroying cochlear sensory cells, despite complete recovery of cochlear thresholds (Kujawa and Liberman 2009), as measured by gross neural potentials such as the auditory brainstem response (ABR). To address this nominal paradox, we recorded responses from single auditory nerve fibers in guinea pigs exposed to this type of neuropathic noise (4- to 8-kHz octave band at 106 dB SPL for 2 h). Two weeks postexposure, ABR thresholds had recovered to normal, while suprathreshold ABR amplitudes were reduced. Both thresholds and amplitudes of distortion-product otoacoustic emissions fully recovered, suggesting recovery of hair cell function. Loss of up to 30% of auditory-nerve synapses on inner hair cells was confirmed by confocal analysis of the cochlear sensory epithelium immunostained for pre- and postsynaptic markers. In single fiber recordings, at 2 wk postexposure, frequency tuning, dynamic range, postonset adaptation, first-spike latency and its variance, and other basic properties of auditory nerve response were all completely normal in the remaining fibers. The only physiological abnormality was a change in population statistics suggesting a selective loss of fibers with low- and medium-spontaneous rates. Selective loss of these high-threshold fibers would explain how ABR thresholds can recover despite such significant noise-induced neuropathy. A selective loss of high-threshold fibers may contribute to the problems of hearing in noisy environments that characterize the aging auditory system.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurosci
                Front Neurosci
                Front. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                18 January 2017
                : 10
                1Center for Hearing and Deafness, University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY, USA
                2Callier Center, University of Texas at Dallas Dallas, TX, USA
                3School of Human Communication Disorders, Dalhousie University Halifax, NS, Canada
                Author notes

                Edited by: Jeffery Lichtenhan, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

                Reviewed by: Daniel Llano, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, USA; Richard Altschuler, University of Michigan, USA; Anna R. Chambers, University of Oslo, Norway

                *Correspondence: Richard Salvi salvi@ 123456buffalo.edu

                This article was submitted to Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience

                Copyright © 2017 Salvi, Sun, Ding, Chen, Lobarinas, Wang, Radziwon and Auerbach.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 8, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 93, Pages: 14, Words: 10526
                Funded by: National Institutes of Health 10.13039/100000002
                Award ID: 5R01DC011808
                Award ID: R01 OH010235
                Funded by: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders 10.13039/100000055


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