Objectives/Hypothesis Oxidative stress plays a substantial role in the genesis of noise-induced cochlear injury that causes permanent hearing loss. We present the results of three different approaches to enhance intrinsic cochlear defense mechanisms against oxidative stress. This article explores, through the following set of hypotheses, some of the postulated causes of noise-induced cochlear oxidative stress (NICOS) and how noise-induced cochlear damage may be reduced pharmacologically. 1) NICOS is in part related to defects in mitochondrial bioenergetics and biogenesis. Therefore, NICOS can be reduced by acetyl-L carnitine (ALCAR), an endogenous mitochondrial membrane compound that helps maintain mitochondrial bioenergetics and biogenesis in the face of oxidative stress. 2) A contributing factor in NICOS injury is glutamate excitotoxicity, which can be reduced by antagonizing the action of cochlear N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors using carbamathione, which acts as a glutamate antagonist. 3) Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) may be characterized as a cochlear-reduced glutathione (GSH) deficiency state; therefore, strategies to enhance cochlear GSH levels may reduce noise-induced cochlear injury. The objective of this study was to document the reduction in noise-induced hearing and hair cell loss, following application of ALCAR, carbamathione, and a GSH repletion drug D-methionine (MET), to a model of noise-induced hearing loss.
Study Design This was a prospective, blinded observer study using the above-listed agents as modulators of the noise-induced cochlear injury response in the species chinchilla laniger.
Methods Adult chinchilla laniger had baseline-hearing thresholds determined by auditory brainstem response (ABR) recording. The animals then received injections of saline or saline plus active experimental compound starting before and continuing after a 6-hour 105 dB SPL continuous 4-kHz octave band noise exposure. ABRs were obtained immediately after noise exposure and weekly for 3 weeks. After euthanization, cochlear hair cell counts were obtained and analyzed.
Results ALCAR administration reduced noise-induced threshold shifts. Three weeks after noise exposure, no threshold shift at 2 to 4 kHz and <10 dB threshold shifts were seen at 6 to 8 kHz in ALCAR-treated animals compared with 30 to 35 dB in control animals. ALCAR treatment reduced both inner and outer hair cell loss. OHC loss averaged <10% for the 4- to 10-kHz region in ALCAR-treated animals and 60% in saline-injected-noise-exposed control animals. Noise-induced threshold shifts were also reduced in carbamathione-treated animals. At 3 weeks, threshold shifts averaged 15 dB or less at all frequencies in treated animals and 30 to 35 dB in control animals. Averaged OHC losses were 30% to 40% in carbamathione-treated animals and 60% in control animals. IHC losses were 5% in the 4- to 10-kHz region in treated animals and 10% to 20% in control animals. MET administration reduced noise-induced threshold shifts. ANOVA revealed a significant difference (P <.001). Mean OHC and IHC losses were also significantly reduced (P <.001).
Conclusions These data lend further support to the growing body of evidence that oxidative stress, generated in part by glutamate excitotoxicity, impaired mitochondrial function and GSH depletion causes cochlear injury induced by noise. Enhancing the cellular oxidative stress defense pathways in the cochlea eliminates noise-induced cochlear injury. The data also suggest strategies for therapeutic intervention to reduce NIHL clinically.