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Ueberfuhr, Margarete A. and Drexl, Markus (2019): Slow oscillatory changes of DPOAE magnitude and phase after exposure to intense low-frequency sounds. In: Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 122, No. 1: pp. 118-131

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Sensitive sound detection within the mammalian cochlea is performed by hair cells surrounded by cochlear fluids. Maintenance of cochlear fluid homeostasis and tight regulation of intracellular conditions in hair cells are crucial for the auditory transduction process but can be impaired by intense sound stimulation. After a short, intense low-frequency sound, the cochlea shows the previously described "bounce phenomenon," which manifests itself as slow oscillatory changes of hearing thresholds and otoacoustic emissions. In this study, distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were recorded after Mongolian gerbils were exposed to intense low-frequency sounds (200 Hz, 100 dB SPL) with different exposure times up to 1 h. After all sound exposure durations, a certain percentage of recordings (up to 80% after 1.5-min-long exposure) showed oscillatory DPOAE changes, similar to the bounce phenomenon in humans. Changes were quite uniform with respect to size and time course, and they were independent from sound exposure duration. Changes showed states of hypo- and hyperactivity with either state preceding the other. The direction of changes was suggested to depend on the static position of the cochlear operating point. As assessed with DPOAEs, no indication for a permanent damage after several or long exposure times was detected. We propose that sensitivity changes occur due to alterations of the mechanoelectrical transduction process of outer hair cells. Those alterations could be induced by different challenged homeostatic processes with slow electromotility of outer hair cells being the most plausible source of the bounce phenomenon. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Low-frequency, high-intensity sound can cause slowly cycling activity changes in the mammalian cochlea. We examined the effect of low-frequency sound duration on the degree of these alterations. We found that cochlear changes showed a stereotypical biphasic pattern independent of sound exposure duration, but the probability that significant changes occurred decreased with increasing sound duration. Despite exposure durations of up to 1 h, no permanent or transient impairments of the cochlea were detected.

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