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Hear Res. 1989 Oct;42(1):47-72.

Outer hair cell receptor current and sensorineural hearing loss.

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Department of Physiology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.


It is argued in this paper that many nonlinear phenomena in audition and many types of sensorineural hearing loss can be explained by a disruption of the mechano-electrical transduction process at the apex of the outer hair cells. This is done using experimental data and a simple model of the active role of outer hair cells in cochlear mechanics based on our previous experiments with acoustic trauma. The causes of sensorineural loss addressed include acoustic trauma, aminoglycoside ototoxicity, intoxication with loop diuretics, hypoxia and Meniere's disease. The nonlinear phenomena discussed include loudness compression, two-tone suppression and modulation of cochlear sensitivity by very low-frequency tones. In every case considered the reduction in neural sensitivity was related to the reduction in outer hair cell receptor current in a quantitatively similar way. We conclude that the link is causal.

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