• acetylcholine;
  • cochlea;
  • efferents;
  • guinea pig;
  • norepinephrine


Emotional stress is a phenomenon experienced by many people at some time in their lives. Some of its early manifestations, such as unbearable loudness of ambient sounds and sensations of dizziness, might be linked to inner ear dysfunction. Although the inner ear is supplied with a substantial sympathetic innervation, previous studies have failed to demonstrate any significant functional impact. We show here that in the awake guinea pig and following unilateral ablation of the superior cervical ganglion, the temporary threshold shift induced by a 1-min exposure to 8 kHz pure tone at 96 dB sound pressure level was reduced by as much as 40 dB. Of interest, the protective effect was bilateral suggesting an intimate relationship between the sympathetic and the olivocochlear efferent systems. The data presented here provide new evidence for a key role for the sympathetic system in modulating temporary threshold shifts following exposure to moderate sound stimulation. This opens new perspectives for investigation of sympathetic control in noise-induced permanent hearing losses.