Translational and interdisciplinary insights into presbyacusis: A multidimensional disease

Hear Res. 2021 Mar 15:402:108109. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2020.108109. Epub 2020 Oct 31.


There are multiple etiologies and phenotypes of age-related hearing loss or presbyacusis. In this review we summarize findings from animal and human studies of presbyacusis, including those that provide the theoretical framework for distinct metabolic, sensory, and neural presbyacusis phenotypes. A key finding in quiet-aged animals is a decline in the endocochlear potential (EP) that results in elevated pure-tone thresholds across frequencies with greater losses at higher frequencies. In contrast, sensory presbyacusis appears to derive, in part, from acute and cumulative effects on hair cells of a lifetime of environmental exposures (e.g., noise), which often result in pronounced high frequency hearing loss. These patterns of hearing loss in animals are recognizable in the human audiogram and can be classified into metabolic and sensory presbyacusis phenotypes, as well as a mixed metabolic+sensory phenotype. However, the audiogram does not fully characterize age-related changes in auditory function. Along with the effects of peripheral auditory system declines on the auditory nerve, primary degeneration in the spiral ganglion also appears to contribute to central auditory system aging. These inner ear alterations often correlate with structural and functional changes throughout the central nervous system and may explain suprathreshold speech communication difficulties in older adults with hearing loss. Throughout this review we highlight potential methods and research directions, with the goal of advancing our understanding, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of presbyacusis.

Keywords: Age-Related Hearing Loss; Endocochlear Potential; Metabolic; Neural; Presbyacusis; Sensory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Cochlear Nerve
  • Deafness
  • Hair Cells, Auditory
  • Hearing
  • Humans
  • Presbycusis* / diagnosis