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A stress-response system in the ear protects against hearing loss
Date:5/3/2010

(NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common occupational injuries in the United States, and is most prevalent in the general manufacturing, mining, and construction industries. Daily exposure to noise, including listening to music too loudly, can also result in permanent hearing damage. In order to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, NIDCD suggests that "a good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are 'too loud,' and 'too close' or that last 'too long.'"

Vetter and colleagues focused on a specific receptor for corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a peptide that acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter. In the typical hormone signaling system served by CRF, the hypothalamus secretes CRF in response to stress and triggers the release of glucocorticoids, which are involved in the body's immune and inflammatory responses.

Mice that were missing a gene responsible for making CRFR2, a specific CRF receptor, had increased sensitivity to sound. While this may seem to be an advantage, when exposed to an environment of broad frequency sounds similar in intensity to normal conversation, Vetter and colleagues found that the mice with a genetic deficit of CRFR2 receptors experienced significant hearing damage, while normal mice experienced no hearing loss at all. In another experiment, mice were exposed to high intensity sound levels, comparable to that of a passing subway train at about ten feet, or most MP3 players at maximum volume. As expected, under these conditions, the mice with the normal CRFR2 genes experienced some hearing loss, but the mice lacking the CRFR2 genes experienced twice as much hearing loss compared to the normal mice.

"Our research shows that the CRFR2 receptors have a role in the cellular reaction to environmental stressors acting on the inner ear, such as moderate and loud noise exposure. Identifying the role of CRF receptors in the inner ear may ultimately help us under
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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
617-636-6586
Tufts University, Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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