Near-infrared-light pre-treatment attenuates noise-induced hearing loss in mice

PeerJ. 2020 Jun 17:8:e9384. doi: 10.7717/peerj.9384. eCollection 2020.


Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is accompanied by a reduction of cochlear hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons. Different approaches have been applied to prevent noise induced apoptosis / necrosis. Physical intervention is one technique currently under investigation. Specific wavelengths within the near-infrared light (NIR)-spectrum are known to influence cytochrome-c-oxidase activity, which leads in turn to a decrease in apoptotic mechanisms. It has been shown recently that NIR can significantly decrease the cochlear hair cell loss if applied daily for 12 days after a noise exposure. However, it is still unclear if a single NIR-treatment, just before a noise exposure, could induce similar protective effects. Therefore, the present study was conducted to investigate the effect of a single NIR-pre-treatment aimed at preventing or limiting NIHL. The cochleae of adult NMRI-mice were pre-treated with NIR-light (808 nm, 120 mW) for 5, 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes via the external ear canal. All animals were noised exposed immediately after the pre-treatment by broad band noise (5-20 kHz) for 30 minutes at 115 dB SPL. Frequency specific ABR-recordings to determine auditory threshold shift were carried out before the pre-treatment and two weeks after the noise exposure. The amplitude increase for wave IV and cochlear hair cell loss were determined. A further group of similar mice was noise exposed only and served as a control for the NIR pre-exposed groups. Two weeks after noise exposure, the ABR threshold shifts of NIR-treated animals were significantly lower (p < 0.05) than those of the control animals. The significance was at three frequencies for the 5-minute pre-treatment group and across the entire frequency range for all other treatment groups. Due to NIR light, the amplitude of wave four deteriorates significantly less after noise exposure than in controls. The NIR pre-treatment had no effect on the loss of outer hair cells, which was just as high with or without NIR-light pre-exposure. Relative to the entire number of outer hair cells across the whole cochlea, outer hair cell loss was rather negligible. No inner hair cell loss whatever was detected. Our results suggest that a single NIR pre-treatment induces a very effective protection of cochlear structures from noise exposure. Pre-exposure of 10 min seems to emerge as the optimal dosage for our experimental setup. A saturated effect occurred with higher dosage-treatments. These results are relevant for protection of residual hearing in otoneurosurgery such as cochlear implantation.

Keywords: Auditory brainstem response; Cochlear hair cells; Near infrared light; Noise-induced hearing loss.

Grants and funding

This study was supported by Advanced Bionics GmbH, Hanover, Germany. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.