The Effects of Age and Noise Exposure on Proxy Measures of Cochlear Synaptopathy

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Although there is strong histological evidence for age-related synaptopathy in humans, evidence for the existence of noise-induced cochlear synaptopathy in humans is inconclusive. Here we sought to evaluate the relative contributions of age and noise exposure to cochlear synaptopathy using a series of electrophysiological and behavioral measures. We extended an existing cohort by including 33 adults in the age range 37-60, resulting in a total of 156 participants, with the additional older participants resulting in a weakening of the correlation between lifetime noise exposure and age. We used six independent regression models (corrected for multiple comparisons), in which age, lifetime noise exposure and high-frequency audiometric thresholds were used to predict measures of synaptopathy, with a focus on differential measures. The models for auditory brainstem responses, envelope-following responses, interaural phase discrimination and the co-ordinate response measure of speech perception were not statistically significant. However, both age and noise exposure were significant predictors of performance on the digit triplet test of speech perception in noise, with greater noise exposure (unexpectedly) predicting better performance in the 80 dB SPL condition and greater age predicting better performance in the 40 dB SPL condition. Amplitude modulation detection thresholds were also significantly predicted by age, with older listeners performing better than younger listeners at 80 dB SPL. Overall, the results are inconsistent with the predicted effects of synaptopathy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Hearing (Online)
Early online date27 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • cochlear synaptopathy
  • hidden hearing loss
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • speech-in-noise
  • psychophysics


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