Purpose of review: Significant changes in population demographics with respect to age have taken place, and this pattern is expected to continue. The aging of the population underscores the importance of finding ways to improve the quality of life of the elderly. Most of the elderly population, however, suffers from progressive hearing loss: 60% of people older than 70 years have hearing loss of at least 25 dB. Age-related hearing loss affects the quality of life, not only of the elderly but also of their families and loved ones.
Recent findings: The research goal in this field is to elucidate the mechanisms involved in age-related hearing loss and the molecular basis of normal and impaired auditory function, with the aim of developing preventative therapies. During the past few years, extraordinary progress has been made in the identification of genes that contribute to deafness. Additionally, inbred strains of mice have proven to be useful models to identify specific factors relevant to age-related hearing loss. A detailed description of the pathology exhibited by inbred mice that exhibit age-related hearing loss is helping to identify the specific structures and cell types affected by age-related hearing loss. A summary of current research efforts is presented. This review focuses on studies using inbred mice.
Summary: By defining the molecular basis of normal and impaired auditory function, therapies can be developed to ameliorate the effects of aging in the auditory system.