Hyperacusis, a marked intolerance to normal environmental sound, is a common symptom in patients with tinnitus, Williams syndrome, autism, and other neurologic diseases. It has been suggested that an imbalance of excitation and inhibition in the central auditory system (CAS) may play an important role in hyperacusis. Recent studies found that noise exposure, one of the most common causes of hearing loss and tinnitus, can increase the auditory cortex (AC) response, presumably by increasing the gain of the AC. However, it is not clear whether the increased cortical response will affect sound sensitivity and induce hyperacusis. In this experiment, we studied the effects of noise exposure (narrow band noise, 12 kHz, 120 dB SPL, 1 hour) on the physiological response of the inferior colliculus (IC) and the AC, and the behavioral sound reaction in conscious Sprague Dawley rats. Noise exposure induced a decrease of sound evoked potential in the IC. However, significant increases of AC response including sound evoked potentials and the spike firing rates of AC neurons were recorded right after the noise exposure. These results suggest that noise exposure induces hyperexcitability of AC presumably by increasing the post-synaptic response of AC neurons. The behavioral consequence of the noise exposure on sound perception was measured by the amplitude of the acoustic startle response before and after noise exposure in a separate group of rats. Although noise exposure caused a moderate hearing loss, the acoustic startle amplitude at the super-threshold level was significantly increased. These results suggest that noise exposure can cause exaggerated the sound reaction which may be related with the enhanced responsiveness of the AC neurons. This phenomenon may be related with noise induced hyperacusis.This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Tinnitus Neuroscience.
Published by Elsevier B.V.