Behavioral auditory thresholds and loss of ribbon synapses at inner hair cells in aged gerbils

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The potential contribution of auditory synaptopathy to age dependent hearing loss was studied in groups of young and old gerbils. The analysis of the number of inner hair cell ribbon synapses in aged gerbils (37.9 ± 3.3 months of age) revealed only a relatively small (11–17%) loss in the basal two thirds of the cochlea, while a more pronounced reduction was identified towards the apex (almost 40%) when compared to a group of young gerbils (9.5 ± 3.2 months of age). Mean threshold elevation in the old gerbils was around 25 dB at 2 and 10 kHz. Frequency-specific behavioral thresholds and ribbon synapse counts were not significantly correlated for the middle and basal regions of the cochlea, despite thresholds varying over a 45 dB SPL range. This suggests that besides a small age-dependent loss of ribbon synapses, additional cochlear pathologies, most likely a decreased endocochlear potential, contribute to peripheral hearing loss in old gerbils.

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