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Audiol Neurootol. 2008;13(1):37-52. Epub 2007 Aug 22.

Outer- and middle-ear contributions to presbycusis in the Brown Norway rat.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


This paper examines the contribution of the outer and middle ears to the hearing loss associated with presbycusis in Brown Norway rats. Animals were formed into two groups; young adults (2-3 months old) and aged animals (approximately 34 months old). Auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds were obtained with the outer ear intact or surgically removed. Tympanic membrane (TM) velocity transfer functions were measured from the umbo with the outer ear removed. The length of the auditory meatus, TM surface area, and TM thickness were quantified. The ABR thresholds were 17-26 dB less sensitive in the aged animals between 8.0 and 40.0 kHz when the outer ear was intact. A significant and reliable reduction in the aged rat velocity transfer function of 5-8 dB occurred between 10.0 and 32.0 kHz, while the low frequency velocity response was only a few decibels greater in the younger animals. The ABR threshold differences between young adult and aged ears were compensated by removing the outer/middle ear effects of aging to reveal a purely sensorineural component of presbycusis. The outer and middle ear effects were calculated directly when the ABR and TM velocity data were obtained with the outer ear removed. The outer ear intact condition was modeled in order to compare the ABR data obtained with the outer ear intact with the TM velocity data obtained with the outer removed. With either procedure, removal of the age-related contributions of the outer and middle ear to the ABR threshold resulted in similar age-related ABR threshold shifts between the two age groups. The pure sensorineural threshold shift component of the ABR response was restricted to frequencies between 5.0 and 20.0 kHz and reached a maximum of approximately 15 dB. These results support the conclusion that there is an outer- and middle-ear contribution to the threshold loss defining presbycusis.

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