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Hear Res. 1995 Oct;90(1-2):158-68.

Chronic cochlear de-efferentation and susceptibility to permanent acoustic injury.

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Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


The question of whether olivocochlear (OC) efferent feedback can decrease permanent damage from acoustic overexposure was investigated by comparing the chronic threshold shifts and cochlear histopathology in guinea pigs either surgically de-efferented or sham-operated and then exposed (awake and unrestrained) to a 109- or 112-dB narrow-band noise centered at 10 kHz for 2 h. Threshold shifts were estimated using compound action potentials; hair cell loss and stereocilia condition were evaluated via light-microscopic examination of plastic-embedded surface preparations, and the degree of de-efferentation was assessed by measuring OC fascicles in the tunnel of Corti. Among animals exposed to 109-dB noise, the mean permanent threshold shift (PTS) was less than 25 dB, and there were no significant differences between normal and de-efferented animals with respect to either physiological or histological measures of acoustic injury. Among animals exposed to 112 dB, the mean peak PTS was roughly 50 dB. There was a small (but statistically significant) increase in PTS for de-efferented animals, especially at frequencies above the region of peak threshold shift; however, the patterns of hair cell loss and stereocilia damage were statistically indistinguishable. Thus, for these particular exposure conditions, sound-evoked activity in the OC system does not play a major protective role in the auditory periphery, except perhaps for the extreme basal regions of the cochlea.

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