Physiological basis of noise-induced hearing loss in a tympanal ear

Warren, Ben and Fenton, Georgina E. and Klenschi, Elizabeth and Windmill, James F.C. and French, Andrew S. (2020) Physiological basis of noise-induced hearing loss in a tympanal ear. Journal of Neuroscience, 40 (15). pp. 3130-3140. ISSN 0270-6474

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      Abstract

      Acoustic overexposure, such as listening to loud music too often, results in noise-induced hearing loss. The pathologies of this prevalent sensory disorder begin within the ear at synapses of the primary auditory receptors, their postsynaptic partners and their supporting cells. The extent of noise-induced damage, however, is determined by overstimulation of primary auditory receptors, upstream of where the pathologies manifest. A systematic characterization of the electrophysiological function of the upstream primary auditory receptors is warranted to understand how noise exposure impacts on downstream targets, where the pathologies of hearing loss begin. Here, we used the experimentally-accessible locust ear (male, Schistocerca gregaria) to characterize a decrease in the auditory receptor's ability to respond to sound after noise exposure. Surprisingly, after noise exposure, the electrophysiological properties of the auditory receptors remain unchanged, despite a decrease in the ability to transduce sound. This auditory deficit stems from changes in a specialized receptor lymph that bathes the auditory receptors, revealing striking parallels with the mammalian auditory system.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Noise exposure is the largest preventable cause of hearing loss. It is the auditory receptors that bear the initial brunt of excessive acoustic stimulation, because they must convert excessive sound-induced movements into electrical signals, but remain functional afterward. Here we use the accessible ear of an invertebrate to, for the first time in any animal, characterize changes in auditory receptors after noise overexposure. We find that their decreased ability to transduce sound into electrical signals is, most probably, due to changes in supporting (scolopale) cells that maintain the ionic composition of the ear. An emerging doctrine in hearing research is that vertebrate primary auditory receptors are surprisingly robust, something that we show rings true for invertebrate ears too.