Auditory brainstem responses predict auditory nerve fiber thresholds and frequency selectivity in hearing impaired chinchillas
Non-invasive auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) are commonly used to assess cochlear pathology in both clinical and research environments. In the current study, we evaluated the relationship between ABR characteristics and more direct measures of cochlear function. We recorded ABRs and auditory nerve (AN) single-unit responses in seven chinchillas with noise induced hearing loss. ABRs were recorded for 1-8 kHz tone burst stimuli both before and several weeks after four hours of exposure to a 115 dB SPL, 50 Hz band of noise with a center frequency of 2 kHz. Shifts in ABR characteristics (threshold, wave I amplitude, and wave I latency) following hearing loss were compared to AN-fiber tuning curve properties (threshold and frequency selectivity) in the same animals. As expected, noise exposure generally resulted in an increase in ABR threshold and decrease in wave I amplitude at equal SPL. Wave I amplitude at equal sensation level (SL), however, was similar before and after noise exposure. In addition, noise exposure resulted in decreases in ABR wave I latency at equal SL and, to a lesser extent, at equal SPL. The shifts in ABR characteristics were significantly related to AN-fiber tuning curve properties in the same animal at the same frequency. Larger shifts in ABR thresholds and ABR wave I amplitude at equal SPL were associated with greater AN threshold elevation. Larger reductions in ABR wave I latency at equal SL, on the other hand, were associated with greater loss of AN frequency selectivity. This result is consistent with linear systems theory, which predicts shorter time delays for broader peripheral frequency tuning. Taken together with other studies, our results affirm that ABR thresholds and wave I amplitude provide useful estimates of cochlear sensitivity. Furthermore, comparisons of ABR wave I latency to normative data at the same SL may prove useful for detecting and characterizing loss of cochlear frequency selectivity.
from Hearing Research