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Concurrent Acoustic Activation of the Medial Olivocochlear System Modifies the After-Effects of Intense Low-Frequency Sound on the Human Inner Ear

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 16: 713-25. doi: 10.1007/s10162-015-0538-4. Epub 2015 Aug 12.

Authors/Editors: Kugler K
Wiegrebe L
Gürkov R
Krause E
Drexl M
Publication Date: 2015
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2010 - 2019


Human hearing is rather insensitive for very low frequencies (i.e. below 100 Hz). Despite this insensitivity, low-frequency sound can cause oscillating changes of cochlear gain in inner ear regions processing even much higher frequencies. These alterations outlast the duration of the low-frequency stimulation by several minutes, for which the term 'bounce phenomenon' has been coined. Previously, we have shown that the bounce can be traced by monitoring frequency and level changes of spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAEs) over time. It has been suggested elsewhere that large receptor potentials elicited by low-frequency stimulation produce a net Ca(2+) influx and associated gain decrease in outer hair cells. The bounce presumably reflects an underdamped, homeostatic readjustment of increased Ca(2+) concentrations and related gain changes after low-frequency sound offset. Here, we test this hypothesis by activating the medial olivocochlear efferent system during presentation of the bounce-evoking low-frequency (LF) sound. The efferent system is known to modulate outer hair cell Ca(2+) concentrations and receptor potentials, and therefore, it should modulate the characteristics of the bounce phenomenon. We show that simultaneous presentation of contralateral broadband noise (100 Hz-8 kHz, 65 and 70 dB SPL, 90 s, activating the efferent system) and ipsilateral low-frequency sound (30 Hz, 120 dB SPL, 90 s, inducing the bounce) affects the characteristics of bouncing SOAEs recorded after low-frequency sound offset. Specifically, the decay time constant of the SOAE level changes is shorter, and the transient SOAE suppression is less pronounced. Moreover, the number of new, transient SOAEs as they are seen during the bounce, are reduced. Taken together, activation of the medial olivocochlear system during induction of the bounce phenomenon with low-frequency sound results in changed characteristics of the bounce phenomenon. Thus, our data provide experimental support for the hypothesis that outer hair cell calcium homeostasis is the source of the bounce phenomenon.

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