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Hear Res. 1993 Feb;65(1-2):40-50.

Does type I afferent neuron dysfunction reveal itself through lack of efferent suppression?

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Kresge Hearing Research Laboratory of the South, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans 70112.


We present here two patients and three control subjects to demonstrate the clinical utility of studying evoked otoacoustic emissions and their contralateral suppression, as an aid to the delineation of afferent neuron dysfunction and possible lack of efferent suppression. The key patients here who fail to show contralateral suppression of their very robust otoacoustic emissions, concomitantly show paradoxically absent auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) and absence of middle ear muscle reflexes despite normal audiograms in the 2 kHz region and normal tympanograms. One of these patients has nearly normal pure tone sensitivity up to 3 kHz. The other has normal sensitivity in the 2 kHz region, but poor sensitivity on either side of that frequency. In addition, the two patients of interest show absent masking level differences and inordinately poor speech discrimination. Three 'foils' are presented: one patient with poor hearing on either side of 2 kHz, one with Bell's Palsy, and the third with bilateral temporal lobe disease. These patients show respectively that (1) isolated normal hearing at 2 kHz, (2) absence of middle ear muscle reflexes and (3) conscious cortical awareness of sound do not contribute directly to this intriguing clinical state. We propose that these patients with absent ABRs suffer from an auditory nervous system dysfunction which disrupts access to the efferent system. This condition also disables whatever systems contribute to the neural synchrony inherent in recording compound far-field action potentials such as the ABR. There are a number of hypotheses to be considered here. One suggests that the key patients are deficient in synchronous activation of Type I afferent fibers to the degree that they cannot activate efferent feedback, or they may be able to use only so-called Type II afferent neurons to support their normal zones of pure tone sensitivity. A less likely consideration focuses on the notion that discharge of primary neurons might be in some way synchronized by an efferent system which in these patients is the primary source of deficit.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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