Exposure to intense sound can cause damage to the delicate sensory and neuronal components of the cochlea leading to hearing loss. Such damage often causes the dendrites of the spiral ganglion neurons (SGN), the neurons that provide the afferent innervation of the hair cells, to swell and degenerate thus damaging the synapse. In models of neuropathic pain, axotomy, another form of afferent nerve damage, is accompanied by altered voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) expression, leading to neuronal hyperactivity. In this study, adult Wistar rats were exposed to noise which produced a mild, 20dB hearing threshold elevation and their VGSC expression was investigated. Quantitative PCR showed decreased Na V1.1 and Na V1.6 mRNA expression in the SGN following noise exposure (29% and 56% decrease respectively) while Na V1.7 mRNA expression increased by approximately 20% when compared to control rats. Immunohistochemistry extended these findings, revealing increased staining for Na V1.1 along the SGN dendrites and Na V1.7 in the cell bodies after noise. These results provide the first evidence for selective changes in VGSC expression following moderate noise-induced hearing loss and could contribute to elevated hearing thresholds and to the generation of perceptual anomalies commonly associated with cochlear damage, such as tinnitus and hyperacusis.
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Spiral ganglion neurons
- Voltage-gated sodium channels