Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to a variety of structures within the cochlea and auditory nerve. Presently, genetic and tissue transplantation strategies are being explored as therapeutic strategies for curing hearing loss. Unfortunately there are no available diagnostic techniques that isolate and distinguish the anatomic site(s) of damage within the cochlea or auditory nerve. A test battery that identifies the locus of lesion(s) will allow physicians to target the appropriate anatomic sites for medical intervention. The long-term goal of this research is to develop these diagnostic tests. In this proposal, the aim of the R21 phase is to determine if the cochlear microphonic (CM), in response to a low-frequency tone embedded in high-pass noise, can be used to quantify the location of missing outer hair cells along the cochlear partition. A cumulative distribution function (CDF) of outer hair cells is obtained by plotting the amplitude of the masked CM relative to the unmasked amplitude for specific masker frequencies. We hypothesize that the location of a plateau in the CDF (or some other variable in the CDF or corresponding probability density function) will relate to the location of missing outer hair cells. This is tested by correlating the location of missing outer hair cells estimated by the CDF with anatomic measurements in animals with hair cell lesions. In clinic populations, outer hair cells may be present but functioning abnormally. In the R33 phase we develop indices from hair cell transducer functions to determine the health of surviving outer hair cells. We hypothesize that 1) transducer function indices can be obtained along the length of the cochlea and 2) the indices can quantify outer hair cell health despite damage to other cochlear structures. The first goal is tested by correlating the location of the plateau of the CDF of an index with the location of maximum hearing loss in animals with temporary hearing loss at various frequencies. The second hypothesis is examined by comparing indices among groups of animals with lesions to outer hair cells and other structures. The studies in this proposal are likely to be translated to human patients. Presently, the CM is recorded in Audiologic clinics in the United States and Europe. Future studies optimizing stimuli and recording location are envisioned as the next step for developing diagnostic tests that compliment the new medical treatment strategies that are being explored to cure sensorineural hearing loss.

Public Health Relevance

Hearing loss is caused by damage to a variety of anatomic structures both within the inner ear and auditory nerve. Presently, there is both a scientific and medical movement towards curing hearing loss with genetic and/or tissue transplantation techniques. Unfortunately there are no diagnostic techniques that can identify the location and health of the structures underlying hearing loss in a particular patient. The goal of this research is to develop diagnostic tests that identify the locus of lesion so that physicians can direct new medical treatments to the appropriate target.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants Phase II (R33)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
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Cyr, Janet
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University of Kansas
Other Health Professions
Schools of Allied Health Profes
Kansas City
United States
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Kamerer, Aryn M; Diaz, Francisco J; Peppi, Marcello et al. (2016) The potential use of low-frequency tones to locate regions of outer hair cell loss. Hear Res 342:39-47
Chertoff, Mark E; Earl, Brian R; Diaz, Francisco J et al. (2014) Predicting the location of missing outer hair cells using the electrical signal recorded at the round window. J Acoust Soc Am 136:1212