Altered Peripheral and Brainstem Auditory Function in Aged Rats


A technique for conducting free-field brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) audiometry in unanesthetized, unrestrained rats revealed a non-recruiting 18 dB elevation of click threshold in aged rats. BAEPs were first recorded in young and aged rats to clicks of equal intensity (80 dB SPL). Compared to the young group, aged animals exhibited longer wave I and wave IV latencies with no difference seen in the I-IV central conduction time. The prominent negative wave (No) following wave IV was also delayed and the I-No and IV-No conduction times increased in the aged group. When BAEPs were recorded to clicks with intensities adjusted to 35 dB above individual threshold, no differences in wave I or wave IV latencies or in the I-IV central conduction time were found between groups. However, the No component was delayed and the I-No and IV-No conduction times remained prolonged in the aged group. The results suggest that in addition to changes in peripheral auditory structures, changes in the rostral auditory brainstem accompany age-related hearing loss in rats.