Cellular mechanisms of noise-induced hearing loss

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Abstract

Exposure to intense sound or noise can result in purely temporary threshold shift (TTS), or leave a residual permanent threshold shift (PTS) along with alterations in growth functions of auditory nerve output. Recent research has revealed a number of mechanisms that contribute to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The principle cause of NIHL is damage to cochlear hair cells and associated synaptopathy. Contributions to TTS include reversible damage to hair cell (HC) stereocilia or synapses, while moderate TTS reflects protective purinergic hearing adaptation. PTS represents permanent damage to or loss of HCs and synapses. While the substrates of HC damage are complex, they include the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and the active stimulation of intracellular stress pathways, leading to programmed and/or necrotic cell death. Permanent damage to cochlear neurons can also contribute to the effects of NIHL, in addition to HC damage. These mechanisms have translational potential for pharmacological intervention and provide multiple opportunities to prevent HC damage or to rescue HCs and spiral ganglion neurons that have suffered injury. This paper reviews advances in our understanding of cellular mechanisms that contribute to NIHL and their potential for therapeutic manipulation.

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