The majority of acquired hearing loss, including presbycusis, is caused by irreversible damage to the sensorineural tissues of the cochlea. This article reviews the intracellular mechanisms that contribute to sensorineural damage in the cochlea, as well as the survival signaling pathways that can provide endogenous protection and tissue rescue. These data have primarily been generated in hearing loss not directly related to age. However, there is evidence that similar mechanisms operate in presbycusis. Moreover, accumulation of damage from other causes can contribute to age-related hearing loss (ARHL). Potential therapeutic interventions to balance opposing but interconnected cell damage and survival pathways, such as antioxidants, anti-apoptotics, and pro-inflammatory cytokine inhibitors, are also discussed.
Keywords: age-related hearing loss (ARHL); c-Jun terminal kinase (JNK); cell survival signaling; hair cells (HCs); inflammation; presbycusis; reactive oxygen species (ROS); spiral ganglion neurons (SGN).