Objective: Aging is a common cause of acquired hearing impairments. This study investigated age-related morphologic changes in human cochleae, with a particular focus on degeneration of the stria vascularis (SV) and the spiral ganglion (SG).
Study Design: Retrospective case review.
Methods: The study group comprised 91 temporal bones from individuals aged 10 to 85 years who had no history or audiometric findings suggestive of specific causes of cochlear degeneration. We quantified the SV and SG atrophy at each cochlear turn using morphometric measurements. Correlations of the SV and SG atrophy with age, audiometric patterns of hearing loss, and auditory thresholds were statistically investigated.
Result: The SV and the SG both showed a tendency for progressive atrophy to develop with age. However, statistically significant correlations were observed between aging and SV atrophy only in the apical and basal cochlear turns. These findings were consistent with those reported previously in gerbils. No significant correlations were detected between SV or SG atrophy and audiometric findings.
Conclusion: SV atrophy appears to be the most prominent anatomic characteristic of aged human cochleae.