Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 5;34(6):2276-84. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0647-13.2014.

A sensitive period for the impact of hearing loss on auditory perception.

Author information

Center for Neural Science and Department of Biology, New York University, New York, New York 10003.


Manipulations of the sensory environment typically induce greater changes to the developing nervous system than they do in adulthood. The relevance of these neural changes can be evaluated by examining the age-dependent effects of sensory experience on quantitative measures of perception. Here, we measured frequency modulation (FM) detection thresholds in adult gerbils and investigated whether diminished auditory experience during development or in adulthood influenced perceptual performance. Bilateral conductive hearing loss (CHL) of ≈30 dB was induced either at postnatal day 10 or after sexual maturation. All animals were then trained as adults to detect a 5 Hz FM embedded in a continuous 4 kHz tone. FM detection thresholds were defined as the minimum deviation from the carrier frequency that the animal could reliably detect. Normal-hearing animals displayed FM thresholds of 25 Hz. Inducing CHL, either in juvenile or adult animals, led to a deficit in FM detection. However, this deficit was greater for juvenile onset hearing loss (89 Hz) relative to adult onset hearing loss (64 Hz). The effects could not be attributed to sensation level, nor were they correlated with proxies for attention. The thresholds displayed by CHL animals were correlated with shallower psychometric function slopes, suggesting that hearing loss was associated with greater variance of the decision variable, consistent with increased internal noise. The results show that decreased auditory experience has a greater impact on perceptual skills when initiated at an early age and raises the possibility that altered development of CNS synapses may play a causative role.


critical period; deafness; frequency discrimination; temporal processing

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center