Acute endolymphatic hydrops generated by exposure of the ear to nontraumatic low-frequency tones

Alec N. Salt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Low-frequency sounds presented at high nontraumatizing levels induce temporary hyperacusis in humans and animals. One explanation of this finding is that the basilar membrane operating point may be disturbed by an endolymph volume change. This possibility was investigated using volume and flow markers iontophoresed into the endolymphatic space of guinea pigs. Marker concentrations were measured with ion-selective microelectrodes placed apically and basally to the iontophoresis site during exposure of the ear to low-frequency tones. Concentration changes were interpreted quantitatively using a finite-element model of the endolymphatic space that allowed changes of endolymph cross-sectional area and flow to be derived. Stimulation with a 200 Hz tone at 115 dB SPL for 3 min produced marker concentration changes consistent with the induction of transient endolymphatic hydrops and a basally directed displacement of endolymph. Endocochlear potentials were greater than normal after the exposure when hydrops was present. During identical tone exposures of animals without marker, we found that action potential (AP) threshold changes and endolymph potassium changes associated with the hydropic state were small. Marker concentration changes were compared with changes in endocochlear potential and AP thresholds for a range of exposure frequencies and levels. AP hypersensitivity occurred with 200 Hz exposure levels below those inducing endolymph volume disturbances. Endolymph volume changes are thought to be the result of, rather than the cause of, changes in operating point of the cochlear transducer. The observations that auditory threshold and endolymph potassium changes are minimal under conditions where substantial endolymphatic hydrops is present is relevant to our understanding of the healing loss in patients with Ménière's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Endolymph volume
  • Ménière's disease


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