Autosomal-dominant sensorineural hearing loss is genetically heterogeneous, with a phenotype closely resembling presbycusis, the most common sensory defect associated with aging in humans. We have identified SLC17A8, which encodes the vesicular glutamate transporter-3 (VGLUT3), as the gene responsible for DFNA25, an autosomal-dominant form of progressive, high-frequency nonsyndromic deafness. In two unrelated families, a heterozygous missense mutation, c.632C-->T (p.A211V), was found to segregate with DFNA25 deafness and was not present in 267 controls. Linkage-disequilibrium analysis suggested that the families have a distant common ancestor. The A211 residue is conserved in VGLUT3 across species and in all human VGLUT subtypes (VGLUT1-3), suggesting an important functional role. In the cochlea, VGLUT3 accumulates glutamate in the synaptic vesicles of the sensory inner hair cells (IHCs) before releasing it onto receptors of auditory-nerve terminals. Null mice with a targeted deletion of Slc17a8 exon 2 lacked auditory-nerve responses to acoustic stimuli, although auditory brainstem responses could be elicited by electrical stimuli, and robust otoacoustic emissions were recorded. Ca(2+)-triggered synaptic-vesicle turnover was normal in IHCs of Slc17a8 null mice when probed by membrane capacitance measurements at 2 weeks of age. Later, the number of afferent synapses, spiral ganglion neurons, and lateral efferent endings below sensory IHCs declined. Ribbon synapses remaining by 3 months of age had a normal ultrastructural appearance. We conclude that deafness in Slc17a8-deficient mice is due to a specific defect of vesicular glutamate uptake and release and that VGLUT3 is essential for auditory coding at the IHC synapse.