The consequences of noise exposure on the auditory system are not entirely understood. In animals, noise exposure causes selective synaptopathy - an uncoupling of auditory nerve fibers from sensory cells - mostly in fibers that respond to high sound levels. Synaptopathy can be measured physiologically in animals, but a direct relationship between noise exposure and synaptopathy in humans has yet to be proven. Sources of variability, such as age, indirect measures of noise exposure, and comorbid auditory disorders, obfuscate attempts to find concrete relationships between noise exposure, synaptopathy, and perceptual consequences. This study adds to the ongoing effort by examining relationships between noise exposure, auditory brainstem response (ABR) amplitudes, and speech perception in adults of various ages and audiometric thresholds and a subset of younger adults with clinically normal hearing. Regression models including noise exposure, age, hearing thresholds, and sex as covariates were compared to find a best-fitting model of toneburst ABR wave I amplitude at two frequencies and word recognition performance in three listening conditions: background noise, time compression, and time compression with reverberation. The data suggest the possibility of detecting synaptopathy in younger adults using physiological measures, but that age and comorbid hearing disorders may hinder attempts to assess noise-induced synaptopathy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics