Behavioral Estimates of the Contribution of Inner and Outer Hair Cell Dysfunction to Individualized Audiometric Loss
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- Lopez-Poveda, E.A. & Johannesen, P.T. JARO (2012) 13: 485. doi:10.1007/s10162-012-0327-2
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Differentiating the relative importance of the various contributors to the audiometric loss (HLTOTAL) of a given hearing impaired listener and frequency region is becoming critical as more specific treatments are being developed. The aim of the present study was to assess the relative contribution of inner (IHC) and outer hair cell (OHC) dysfunction (HLIHC and HLOHC, respectively) to the audiometric loss of patients with mild to moderate cochlear hearing loss. It was assumed that HLTOTAL = HLOHC + HLIHC (all in decibels) and that HLOHC may be estimated as the reduction in maximum cochlear gain. It is argued that the latter may be safely estimated from compression threshold shifts of cochlear input/output (I/O) curves relative to normal hearing references. I/O curves were inferred behaviorally using forward masking for 26 test frequencies in 18 hearing impaired listeners. Data suggested that the audiometric loss for six of these 26 test frequencies was consistent with pure OHC dysfunction, one was probably consistent with pure IHC dysfunction, 13 were indicative of mixed IHC and OHC dysfunction, and five were uncertain (one more was excluded from the analysis). HLOHC and HLIHC contributed on average 60 and 40 %, respectively, to the audiometric loss, but variability was large across cases. Indeed, in some cases, HLIHC was up to 63 % of HLTOTAL, even for moderate losses. The repeatability of the results is assessed using Monte Carlo simulations and potential sources of bias are discussed.