Georg Klump and Christine Köppl: Linking age-related cochlear dysfunction to the perception of temporal fine structure

Despite normal hearing thresholds, elderly people often have difficulties communicating in noisy situations. This may be due to a compromised representation of the temporal fine structure (TFS) of acoustic signals by auditory nerve fibers.
We test the behavioural auditory discrimination of stimuli that relies on TFS in Mongolian gerbils of different ages. Subsequently, the representation of such stimuli by auditory-nerve fibers and the anatomical quantification of afferent synapses in the cochleae is carried out in the same individuals.
By pharmacologically manipulating the cochlear neuropathy in young gerbils and evaluating TFS perception before and after the manipulation, we will further provide evidence for a causal link between the neuropathy and the ability to discriminate stimuli based on TFS.
This combined approach will provide for an unprecedented level of understanding of the processes linking age-related cochlear dysfunction to the perception of TFS.

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