Auditory Brainstem Response Latency in Noise as a Marker of Cochlear Synaptopathy

Golbarg Mehraei, Ann E. Hickox, Hari M. Bharadwaj, Hannah Goldberg, Sarah Verhulst, M. Charles Liberman, Barbara G. Shinn-Cunningham

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Evidence from animal and human studies suggests that moderate acoustic exposure, causing only transient threshold elevation, can nonetheless cause “hidden hearing loss” that interferes with coding of suprathreshold sound. Such noise exposure destroys synaptic connections between cochlear hair cells and auditory nerve fibers; however, there is no clinical test of this synaptopathy in humans. In
animals, synaptopathy reduces the amplitude of auditory brainstem response (ABR) wave-I. Unfortunately, ABR wave-I is difficult to measure in humans, limiting its clinical use. Here, using analogous measurements in humans and mice, we show that the effect of masking noise on the latency of the more robust ABR wave-V mirrors changes in ABR wave-I amplitude. Furthermore, in our human cohort, the effect of noise on wave-V latency predicts perceptual temporal sensitivity. Our results suggest that measures of the effects of noise on ABR wave-V latency can be used to diagnose cochlear synaptopathy in humans.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
Pages (from-to)3755–3764
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2016 the authors.


  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Auditory nerve loss
  • Cochlear synaptopathy
  • Hidden hearing loss
  • Temporal coding


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