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  • Exposure to continuous moderate noise levels is known to impair the auditory system leading to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) in animals including humans. The mechanism underlying noise-dependent auditory Temporary Threshold Shifts (TTS) is not fully understood. In fact, only limited information is available on vertebrates such as fishes, which share homologous inner ear structures to mammals and have the ability to regenerate hair cells. The zebrafish Danio rerio is a well-established model in hearing research providing an unmatched opportunity to investigate the molecular and physiological mechanisms of NIHL at the sensory receptor level. Here we investigated for the first time the effects of noise exposure on TTS and functional recovery in zebrafish, as well as the associated morphological damage and regeneration of the inner ear saccular hair cells. Adult specimens were exposed for 24h to white noise at various amplitudes (130, 140 and 150 dB re. 1 μPa) and their auditory sensitivity was subsequently measured with the Auditory Evoked Potential (AEP) recording technique. Sensory recovery was tested at different times post-treatment (after 3, 7 and 14 days) and compared to individuals kept under quiet lab conditions. Results revealed noise level-dependent TTS up to 33 dB and increase in response latency. Recovery of hearing function occurred within 7 days for fish exposed to 130 and 140 dB noise levels, while fish subject to 150 dB only returned to baseline thresholds after 14 days. Hearing impairment was accompanied by significant loss of hair cells only at the highest noise treatment. Full regeneration of the sensory tissue (number of hair cell receptors) occurred within 7 days, which was prior to functional recovery. We provide first baseline data of NIHL in zebrafish and validate this species as an effective vertebrate model to investigate the impact of noise exposure on the structure and function of the adult inner ear and its recovery process.

  • Anthropogenic noise can be hazardous for the auditory system and wellbeing of animals, including humans. However, very limited information is known on how this global environmental pollutant affects auditory function and inner ear sensory receptors in early ontogeny. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a valuable model in hearing research, including investigations of developmental processes of the vertebrate inner ear. We tested the effects of chronic exposure to white noise in larval zebrafish on inner ear saccular sensitivity and morphology at 3 and 5 days post-fertilization (dpf), as well as on auditory-evoked swimming responses using the prepulse inhibition (PPI) paradigm at 5 dpf. Noise-exposed larvae showed a significant increase in microphonic potential thresholds at low frequencies, 100 and 200 Hz, while the PPI revealed a hypersensitization effect and a similar threshold shift at 200 Hz. Auditory sensitivity changes were accompanied by a decrease in saccular hair cell number and epithelium area. In aggregate, the results reveal noise-induced effects on inner ear structure–function in a larval fish paralleled by a decrease in auditory-evoked sensorimotor responses. More broadly, this study highlights the importance of investigating the impact of environmental noise on early development of sensory and behavioural responsiveness to acoustic stimuli.

Last update from database: 4/14/24, 1:30 PM (UTC)

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