Sex Differences in Auditory Sensitivity of Chinchillas Before and After Exposure to Impulse Noise

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To determine if chinchillas exhibit sex differences in 1) basic auditory sensitivity and 2) susceptibility to cochlear damage and hearing loss from high-level impulse noise.


The auditory sensitivity of 73 chinchillas was assessed by measuring evoked potentials from electrodes implanted in the inferior colliculus (IC-EVPs) and cubic (2f1-f2) distortion product otoacoustic emissions (CDPs). A subgroup of 16 chinchillas were retested after exposure to simulated M16 rifle fire (150 dB pSPL impulse noise). Thresholds and postexposure temporary and permanent threshold shifts were compared as a function of sex and frequency using analysis of variance procedures. Cochleograms, showing the percent of hair cells missing as a function of location on the basilar membrane, were constructed to show inner hair cell (IHC) and outer hair cell (OHC) losses for each group.


Female chinchillas had slightly lower high-frequency thresholds, and slightly higher low-frequency thresholds than male chinchillas, but similar IC-EVP and CDP amplitude functions. Significant sex differences were observed after exposure to high-level impulse noise. Overall, female chinchillas developed approximately 10 dB more high-frequency hearing loss, but approximately 5 dB less low-frequency hearing loss than males. Hair cell losses, particularly IHC losses, were substantially less for females as compared with males.


The results point to close similarities between chinchillas and humans with regard to sex/gender differences in basic auditory sensitivity before noise exposure, suggesting that the chinchilla may be a good model for exploring the anatomical and physiological bases of these differences. In addition, the results show significant sex differences in the physiological and anatomical response of the chinchilla cochlea to high-level noise. Similar differences in humans could have important implications with regard to military assignments and hearing conservation programs.

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