Presbycusis is a common form of hearing loss that progresses from high to low frequencies with advancing age. C57BL/6J mice experience a rapid progression of presbycusis-like hearing deficits and thus provide a convenient animal model for evaluating behavioral, physiological and anatomical correlates of the disorder. Previous studies of C57BL/6J mice have relied on short-term observations of age-matched subject groups to reconstruct a time course for auditory pathologies. Such statistical approaches are weakened by the variability of hearing thresholds in young mice and the inconsistent timing of degenerative effects in older mice. The present study was designed to resolve these ambiguities by tracking the hearing abilities of individual C57BL/6J mice from age 16 weeks until the onset of hearing loss in specific listening conditions. Testing at frequencies of 8 and 16 kHz in quiet confirmed the high-to-low frequency progression that is characteristic of presbycusis. Often the hearing loss developed in two phases, one gradual and the other abrupt. Testing in noise revealed deficits that were first manifested as threshold instability and then an increased susceptibility to masking. These changes occurred before hearing loss in quiet. CBA/CaJ mice did not show significant loss during a similar period of observation. Our findings provide a well-ordered chronology for isolating the functional consequences of multiple cochlear pathologies that arise during the time course of presbycusis. This neurobehavioral assessment is termed the functional age of hearing loss. Neuroanatomical assessments of behaviorally characterized C57BL/6J mice are presented in the companion paper.
- Animal auditory psychophysics
- Signal detection in noise
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems