Noise-induced hearing loss induces loudness intolerance in a rat Active Sound Avoidance Paradigm (ASAP)

Senthilvelan Manohar, Jaclyn Spoth, Kelly Radziwon, Benjamin D. Auerbach, Richard Salvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hyperacusis is a loudness hypersensitivity disorder in which moderate-intensity sounds are perceived as extremely loud, aversive and/or painful. To assess the aversive nature of sounds, we developed an Active Sound Avoidance Paradigm (ASAP) in which rats altered their place preference in a Light/Dark shuttle box in response to sound. When no sound (NS) was present, rats spent more than 95% of the time in the Dark Box versus the transparent Light Box. However, when a 60 or 90 dB SPL noise (2–20 kHz, 2–8 kHz, or 16–20 kHz bandwidth) was presented in the Dark Box, the rats’’ preference for the Dark Box significantly decreased. Percent time in the dark decreased as sound intensity in the Dark Box increased from 60 dB to 90 dB SPL. Interestingly, the magnitude of the decrease was not a monotonic function of intensity for the 16–20 kHz noise and not related to the bandwidth of the 2–20 kHz and 2–8 kHz noise bands, suggesting that sound avoidance is not solely dependent on loudness but the aversive quality of the noise as well. Afterwards, we exposed the rats for 28 days to a 16–20 kHz noise at 102 dB SPL; this exposure produced a 30–40 dB permanent threshold shift at 16 and 32 kHz. Following the noise exposure, the rats were then retested on the ASAP paradigm. High-frequency hearing loss did not alter Dark Box preference in the no-sound condition. However, when the 2–20 kHz or 2–8 kHz noise was presented at 60 or 90 dB SPL, the rats avoided the Dark Box significantly more than they did before the exposure, indicating these two noise bands with energy below the region of hearing loss were perceived as more aversive. In contrast, when the 16–20 kHz noise was presented at 60 or 90 dB SPL, the rats remained in the Dark Box presumably because the high-frequency hearing loss made 16–20 kHz noise less audible and less aversive. These results indicate that when rats develop a high-frequency hearing loss, they become less tolerant of low frequency noise, i.e., high intensity sounds are perceived as more aversive and should be avoided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-203
Number of pages7
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Avoidance
  • Hyperacusis
  • Light-bark box
  • Noise-induced hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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