DOI: 10.1121/10.0023593 ISSN: 0001-4966

Aging leads to impairment of spatial hearing abilities in the Mongolian Gerbil

Matthew D. Sergison, John Peacock, Monica A. Benson, Nathaniel T. Greene, Achim Klug, Daniel J. Tollin
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Aging in humans is known to affect spatial hearing and speech in noise recognition, often even when hearing thresholds are normal. The Mongolian Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) can provide a model organism to investigate these changes. We performed auditory brainstem responses (ABRs), prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle (PPI) behavior, and cochlear histology to assess age-related changes of the gerbil auditory brainstem. Aging (>33month) gerbils showed reduced ABR waveform amplitudes compared to young gerbils (2-10 months). Aging gerbils also show a reduced amplitude of the binaural interaction component (BIC), a biomarker for spatial hearing. However, ABR thresholds were not significantly different between cohorts. Aging gerbils showed impaired performance in our behavior tasks: young gerbils detected shorter gaps in noise and smaller minimum audible angles than aging animals, indicating that aging impairs temporal and spatial hearing abilities. Cochlear histology revealed an increase in cochlear synaptopathy in aging animals, revealing a potential mechanism for age-related dysfunction in the auditory pathway. Taken together, these data reveal structural and physiological changes in the auditory brainstem that underlie spatial hearing deficits in the gerbil. [Work supported by R01-DC017924.]

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