Effects of sex, gonadal hormones, and augmented acoustic environments on sensorineural hearing loss and the central auditory system: insights from research on C57BL/6J mice.


J F. Willott

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Auditory-Cortex, Auditory-Threshold, Cochlea, Cochlear-Nucleus, Disease-Models-Animal, Evoked-Potentials-Auditory-Brain-Stem, Gonadal-Steroid-Hormones, Hair-Cells-Auditory, Hearing-Loss-Sensorineural, Mice-Inbred-C57BL, Models-Neurological, Noise, Ovariectomy, Sex-Characteristics, Spiral-Ganglion

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Hear Res 2009 Jun; 252(1-2):89-99.


Mice of the C57BL/6J (B6) inbred strain exhibit genetic progressive sensorineural hearing loss and have been widely used as a model of adult-onset hearing loss and presbycusis. Males and females exhibit similar degrees of hearing loss until about 3 months of age, after which, the loss accelerates in females. This paper reviews research on how the B6 auditory system is affected by sex, gonadectomy (i.e., a reduction of gonadal hormone levels), and nightly exposure to moderately intense augmented acoustic environments (AAEs) - a low-frequency noise band (LAAE) or high-frequency band (HAAE). Several findings indicate a negative effect of ovarian hormones on the female B6 auditory system. Whereas the sex difference in high-frequency hearing loss was not significantly affected by gondadectomies, the female disadvantage in ABR thresholds at lower frequencies was erased by ovariectomy. Moreover, exposure to the LAAE or HAAE caused losses of hair cells that were more severe in intact females than in ovariectomized females or in males. Finally, intact females had more severe loss of neurons in the low-frequency region of the anterior ventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) than other groups. In contrast, the presence of androgens had beneficial effects. Loss of hair cells and AVCN neurons after AAE exposure were more severe in orchidectomized males than in intact males. Ideas, hypotheses, and potential mechanisms concerning the findings are discussed.